In 1972, there was a flurry of new postage stamps as countries across Europe and beyond marked the half-centenary of the International Union of Railways (UIC). Belgium and Romania stepped up to the mark. So did many other nations, among them diminutive Monaco with a handsome commemorative issue showcasing trains that surely never ran on Monaco’s limited rail network — all 1.7 km of it. The stamps have been consigned to philatelic history, but not so another initiative sponsored by UIC to mark its fiftieth anniversary. UIC’s European members launched a remarkable rail pass designed to give young Europeans the freedom to roam the continent. That pass was called Interrail.
Interrail created a travel revolution. From 1 March 1972, any European resident up to 21 years old could buy a one-month Interrail pass valid in 21 countries. The pass was on offer through to the autumn and in that debut year, initially conceived as a one-off experiment, 87,000 passes were sold to young people who headed off to explore, along the way demonstrating an enviable ability to sleep almost anywhere. It was such a success that Interrail became a mainstream offer, and it is still going strong after 50 years. These days, travelling with an Interrail pass is no longer a privilege of youth. Age limits are long gone.
What better way to slip from work into retirement than with a three-month pass allowing the freedom to roam Europe? At current prices (March 2022), anyone aged 60 or over would pay €974 for a three-month first-class pass. That’s under €11 a day. Interrail has equally been discovered by families. Two adults with two children (aged 8 and 10, by way of example) will pay €604 for passes giving the group of four unlimited secondclass rail travel for seven days within a month across more than 30 countries.