Euro­pean Par­lia­ment to con­sider free In­ter­rail passes for all 18 year olds, plus fer­ries for Mal­tese

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Next week, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment will de­bate an ini­tia­tive to give all teenagers liv­ing in the EU a free In­ter­rail pass on their 18th birth­day.

And for coun­tries such as Malta that are not part of the In­ter­rail con­nec­tion, such as Malta, Cyprus Es­to­nia, Latvia and Lithua­nia, the birth­day present will be aug­mented with other modes of trans­port free of charge un­der the scheme, such as fer­ries or buses.

Un­der the ini­tia­tive, all EU cit­i­zens or legally re­sid­ing in­di­vid­u­als would re­ceive a pass as soon as they turn 18, which they can use to travel the vast rail­way net­work con­nect­ing most ma­jor cities through­out the con­ti­nent.

A month-long Global In­ter­rail pass cur­rently costs €479 and al­lows cus­tomers un­lim­ited train travel through 30 coun­tries within that pe­riod. It is par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar with re­cent school leavers and those tak­ing gap years be­fore uni­ver­sity.

MEPs will vote on the pro­posal, which has been drawn up by Ger­man MEP Man­fred We­ber, chair­man of the EPP Group in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

“Such a pro­gramme would give the op­por­tu­nity to all young peo­ple re­gard­less of their so­cial and ed­u­ca­tional back­ground to dis­cover Europe di­ver­sity, and pro­mote In­ter­rail travel as a prag­matic way to re­duce car­bon foot print,” the pro­posal, tabled last Thurs­day (27 Septem­ber) says.

It adds, “The mo­bil­ity of young peo­ple is es­sen­tial in pro­mot­ing a sense of be­long­ing to Europe, en­hanc­ing so­cial co­he­sion and en­sur­ing a com­pet­i­tive Euro­pean econ­omy. It is, how­ever, not yet wide­spread, de­spite the suc­cess of the Eras­mus, Eras­mus+ and re­lated pro­grammes.

“Mean­while, pop­ulism and the spread of mis­in­for­ma­tion is one of the big­gest threats cur­rently fac­ing Europe. In this con­text, young gen­er­a­tions have a key role to play as a coun­ter­weight, and the Euro­pean Union must give them the means to dis­cover who their neigh­bours are and what op­por­tu­ni­ties other mem­ber states can bring to each and every Euro­pean.

“The Euro­pean Union has heav­ily in­vested in rail­way in­fra­struc­ture, with this ac­count­ing for up to 30 per cent of to­tal in­vest­ment in some mem­ber states, and rail-ori­ented funds will grow from €23.4 bil­lion to €29.9 bil­lion for 2014-2020, mak­ing the In­ter­rail net­work an ex­am­ple of Euro­pean suc­cess for cit­i­zens.

“Against this back­drop, would the Com­mis­sion con­sider tak­ing the ini­tia­tive of launch­ing a new pro­gramme en­ti­tled ‘18th birth­day In­ter­rail pass for Europe’, which would en­tail grant­ing any Euro­pean (cit­i­zen or legally re­sid­ing) a free In­ter­rail pass when turn­ing 18, and look­ing at the pos­si­bil­i­ties of en­gag­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate fund­ing to make it fully op­er­a­tional as soon as pos­si­ble, in close co­op­er­a­tion with the rail­way com­pa­nies and the mem­ber states?

“For the mem­ber states which are not part of the In­ter­rail net­work (Es­to­nia, Latvia, Lithua­nia, Cyprus and Malta), the pro­gramme would cover the cost for other means of trans­port, such as a bus or ferry, to reach the near­est mem­ber state in the net­work.”

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