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Thousands of free France-Germany rail tickets made available for young people

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
Thousands of free France-Germany rail tickets made available for young people
Two trains are shown at Paris' Gare de l'Est railway station: a French SNCF's INOUI high speed TGV train and a Deutsche Bahn (DB) ICE high speed train. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP)

Young people across France and Germany can now apply to get free rail tickets for travel between the two countries this summer and autumn.

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Up to 60,000 people will be able to request free rail tickets to travel between France and Germany this summer and autumn - with 30,000 distributed in France, 30,000 in Germany.

Those selected will be able to choose a seven day period to visit the other country, where they will enjoy unlimited free train travel.

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The goal of the programme is to build inter-cultural connections between the two countries, as they celebrate 60 years since the signing of the Élysée Treaty – which helped to build bilateral cooperation between the former adversaries.

The tickets will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can start by going to the French version of the link - "Passe France Allemagne" or the German version - "Der deutsch-französische Freundschaftspass" to fill out the registration form.

A screenshot by The Local of the French version of the homepage for the ticketing website.

Who can apply? The programme is only available to young people aged 18 to 27 (born between July 2, 1995 and December 31, 2005) who are officially resident in Germany or France. As such, anyone applying will need to show proof of a valid identity card, passport, or residency permit issued by French or German authorities. It is not, however, necessary to be a French or German citizen.

How do I apply? You will need to fill out the online form, giving information such as your first name, last name, date of birth, proof of country of residence and e-mail address.

A screenshot by The Local of the first page of the French online form to request the rail pass.

As the travel passes are to be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, once the form has been completed, then the electronic pass will be sent directly to your email address (if there are still available tickets).  

How will the programme work? The Pass is valid for travel between July 1st and December 31st. If you receive the pass (a special code), then you will be able to enter the other country once, which marks the start of the seven day period. Then, you can travel as much as you like within France or Germany.

You cannot use the scheme to travel within your own country, however. There are several recommended itineraries, for both countries, listed on the site. You can find them here for those with German residency, and here for those with French residency. You are not obligated to leave from the same city you entered in. For example, if travelling from Germany to France, you could take the train into Paris and then return to Germany from Dijon.

In practice, the scheme will function similarly to an Interrail pass, and you will be able to use your special code to activate tickets.

For those travelling from France to Germany, access is open to all German trains, including ICE high-speed trains. However, if you want to reserve a seat, you may need to pay the extra €4 to do so. If you plan to travel between France and Germany via TGV train, then you may want to make your reservation in person at an SNCF station or opt to cross the border using a regional train in order to avoid a supplemental reservation fee, according to French daily Le Figaro.

Why is this scheme happening? In addition to the objective of encouraging more young people to travel between the two countries and build up cultural exchange, the German transport minister told French daily Libération that the project was also intended to fight against climate change, by incentivising rail travel. 

“The plan aims to achieve our climate objectives for the transport sector. We need to convince even more people to travel by train. To do this, we have to offer attractive offers,” Wissing said in January.

The scheme will be supported financially by both countries’ national rail service – SNCF for France, and Deutsche Bahn for Germany. 

Germany has already announced other schemes to encourage rail travel, such as the implementation of the €49 monthly rail pass.

READ MORE: Deutsche Bahn launches summer ICE tickets for less than €10

When the scheme was originally announced in January, the French transport ministry also highlighted that the free ticket scheme would not be the only rail service plan to better connect the two countries. The Paris to Berlin high speed TGV train is set to be launched in 2024, and by late 2023 (or early 2024) the night train connecting the two cities will make its return.

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Travellers can also take advantage of other high-speed lines connecting the two countries, such as the high speed direct line that already connects Paris to Munich. 

READ MORE: 6 European cities you can reach from France by high-speed train

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