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Across France for £1.35 per day: A new deal for young rail travellers

Simon Calder’s Travel

Young rail passengers will be able to roam wherever they wish on the French rail network during July and August for a flat rate of just £1.35 per day.

President Macron announced the plan for a one-month unlimited PassRail in September 2023. Initially it seemed to be an all-ages project intended to emulate the €49 Deutschlandticket – which opened up travel around Germany after the Covid pandemic.

After months of negotiations between central government, the regions and SNCF (French Railways), it is now clear that the scheme is open only for passengers under 27. There are also many restrictions on the trains that can be taken: high-speed TGV expresses are excluded, but so too are suburban services in the Paris region, Ile de France.

Crucially, it appears the PassRail will be available only to people with an address in France.

These are the key questions and answers.

What’s the big idea?

Young people will be able to travel the length and breadth of mainland France in July and/or August for a flat fare of €49 (£42), which works out at £1.35 per day.

They will need an address in France to buy a ticket, either through SNCF Connect – the main vendor – or Trainline, the private company.

Former transport minister Clement Beaune, who was involved in setting up the scheme, called it “a tremendous step forward, of which I am very proud, for young people, ecology and mobility”.

But it comes with strings attached. The German scheme enabled travellers simply to buy a pass that was valid on local and regional transport everywhere in the country without further formality. In contrast, French passengers must “buy” a ticket – at zero cost – to make each journey.

This is analogous to the pan-European Interrail pass; it allows the partner organisations involved to understand who has travelled where so that cash can be allocated and data compiled for future planning.

Which trains are allowed?

The main services are TER (Transport Express Régional) trains, which comprise the main regional and local services across France. Examples include:

  • Calais to Amiens
  • La Rochelle to Bordeaux
  • Port Bou (Spanish station on the French border) via Perpignan to Avignon
  • Marseille to Nice
  • Lyon via Dijon to Paris (the slow and pretty way)

In addition, the PassRail is available on Intercités trains. These are “classic” trains running on the conventional network…

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