Tuesday 26 July 2016

Interrail, created in 1972 to mark UIC’s 50th anniversary, described as “the largest peace movement in Europe”

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The largest peace movement in Europe

The German press agency DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) looks back on 44 years of the existence of the Interrail system, launched in 1972 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Union of Railways (UIC) in 1922, to allow young travellers to explore Europe by train.

David Scheibler asks the following questions in his train travel blog “Zugreiseblog”:

Is travelling by train with an Interrail ticket different today from yesterday?” and “Is Interrailing still an adventure today?

Of course many things have changed in Europe. If we look back on the reports of the first generation of “Interrailers”, we could have the impression that travelling through Europe by train is no longer an adventure but David Scheibler insists:

That is wrong. Anyone travelling today by train across Europe will experience the same feelings and impressions of adventure and freedom as past generations of travellers. Even if it is different today.

For example, there is no longer a single Global Pass or “zone” passes but a variety of different passes that can be combined with other tickets and offers to suit all travel needs.

Wolfgang Klein, author of the Interrail guide “Preiswert durch Europa”, recognizes that

the tickets have become more expensive, in particular if they are compared to budget airline or bus tickets which certainly offer prices to compete with Interrail.

At the beginning of the 90s,

after the fall of the Berlin Wall, more than 400,000 Interrail tickets were sold”. Far fewer are sold today. According to DB figures, 250,341 Interrail tickets were sold last year. The most important target group remains young travellers under 26 years of age.

Nevertheless Wolfgang Klein considers that the core idea that led to the creation of Interrail in 1972 still remains.

It is the largest peace movement in Europe allowing young people to leave [their countries], to get to know new people and other languages and cultures.

UIC Director General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux says:

Since its creation in 1922, UIC’s main objective has been to develop an interoperable international rail network through technology, research, voluntary standards and international solutions, thus establishing an area of free mobility in Europe and worldwide. The scope of these developments has also included innovative administrative and marketing ideas. The creation of Interrail, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of UIC, was just such an idea, symbolising and embodying the open approach of its members, encouraging people to travel and discover Europe, other countries, people and cultures. May I express the wish that this spirit of unity, shared by all member railway undertakings within UIC, will prevail, continuing to build on links in our infrastructure and services, as we approach our centenary and for many years to come.

Interrail today

If at first it was mostly young passengers who used Interrail, now more and more retired people are using it (the young people of the 70s…). Thanks to Eurail and Interrail, travellers of all generations have the opportunity of travelling to many cities, using these passes for multiple trips by train through many (30) countries, essentially to explore Europe.

UIC and Interrail work together to improve the quality of the booking process. An illustration of this is the Eurail Group App, a rail planner which has been downloaded more than 1 million times in 3 years, and which uses timetable data from MERITS (Multiple European Railways Integrated Timetable Storage), a database managed by UIC. This single database, containing the timetable data of more than 40 railway companies, is updated and published on a weekly basis, thus enabling customers to plan their journeys throughout Europe offline on their smartphones. This data was viewed more than 3 million times in 2015.

European passes are sold worldwide through the websites Eurail.com and Interrail.eu

(Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur, German press agency)

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