Germany, France offer youth free cross-border rail passes

"Friendship Passes" will be given to 60,000 residents of France and Germany aged 17-27 to mark the 60th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty

Trains between Germany and France (photo: DW)
Trains between Germany and France (photo: DW)


Germany and France have announced they will give away 60,000 train tickets — half in each country — beginning Monday as a way to foster relations between the two countries.

The transport ministers of Germany and France, Volker Wissman and Clement Beaune, said their project aimed both to further Franco-German cooperation and friendship, as well as to promote environmental consciousness among young adults traveling.

How will the 'Friendship Pass' work?

The new program will see 60,000 one-month passes handed out to young residents of France and Germany between the ages of 17 and 27 on a first-come, first-served basis, according the government website on the promotion.

In Germany, distribution will start on Monday, June 12, and continue as long as supplies last.

The tickets are valid for one month and can be used for several journeys — but one travel day must be used crossing the Franco-German border and another returning. The goal here is to prevent people hoping to use the tickets to save some money on their regular commute domestically.

The one-month tickets can be used for long-distance and local train travel on seven days of a user's choice on either side of the border and will be valid for use between July 1 and December 31, 2023.

However, the tickets will not be totally free. The free pass will not include the small fee for reserving a seat on a high-speed cross-border train, which is required in France. Consumers will have to pay that themselves.

Why are Germany and France giving away free train tickets?

The scheme was conceived to mark the the 60th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty — a treaty of friendship between the long belligerent neighbors signed in the aftermath of the first and second World Wars. Signed by German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and French President Charles DeGaulle on January 22, 1963, the treaty went into effect on July 2, 1963.

German Transport Minister Volker Wissing, who called the scheme a "great opportunity for young people to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty," noted the importance of such ongoing cooperation.

"Current events in Europe show just how important mutual exchange is for the continued survival of a peaceful and democratic Europe," Wissing said, seemingly alluding to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and renewed warfare on European soil.

Wissing's French colleague Beaune also emphasized the larger environmental signal the project was designed to send: "With this ticket we are celebrating Franco-German friendship and actively encouraging train use as a form of transportation."

First step towards cross-border rail passes?

Moreover, Wissing used the occasion to suggest Germany's recently enacted national flat-rate public transport tickets should be valid in France and vice versa.

France is currently working on its own flat-rate ticket modeled on Germany's so-called €49 ticket, which went into effect on May 1.

The German ticket is a monthly nationwide flat-fare rail pass, but it's only valid for slower regional rail services, not more expensive high-speed trains.

Though the German minister said he would be in favor of such a plan, he cautioned it would be a complex undertaking requiring much time and effort to implement.

js/msh (dpa, KNA)

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