France is launching a mega-cheap rail pass next month

The €49-per-month pass covers unlimited journeys on regional and intercity trains, but there's a catch

Liv Kelly
Written by
Liv Kelly
Contributing Writer
Viaduct in France
Photograph: Shutterstock

It’s only becoming more convenient to travel by train, and not just because of the abundance of new high-speed services, sleeper trains and picturesque routes across Europe. Rail travel, along with becoming more efficient, is also becoming significantly more affordable. 

After Germany relaunched their deutschlandticket and Portugal announced an incredibly budget-friendly rail pass, France is jumping on the bandwagon and offering travellers a super-cheap monthly rail ticket, which will kick off next month to coincide with the Olympics.

Like Portugal and Germany’s respective schemes, the French pass will cost only €49 (£42, $53). However, there are a couple of catches.

Criticism from regional authorities has led to a scaling-back of the original offering. The cheap monthly pass is now only eligible for travellers aged 27 and under, and you need to have a French address to qualify. It also won’t be valid on high-speed TGV trains and will exclude the Ile-de-France region (which includes Paris and is the most populated in France). 

But if you’re lucky enough to use the rail pass, you are in for some killer savings – even if you only make a handful of journeys per month. The pass will be valid on TER routes such as Bordeaux to Arcachon, which usually costs around €15 (£12.85, $16), and Marseille to Toulon, which costs €17 (£14.60 , $18.25). Calais to Amiens, La Rochelle to Bordeaux, Port Bou via Perpignan to Avignon, Marseille to Nice and Lyon vis Dijon to Paris are all permitted, and Intercités trains are included too. To buy your ticket, you can do so either from SNCF Connect or from Trainline, according to the Independent

Rail travel is seeing an overhaul not just in France but across Europe, largely to encourage people to opt for more sustainable modes of transport. The announcement of the French travel pass comes after several of the country’s short-haul flights routes were banned, and Transport Minister Clément Beaune proposed a minimum flight price policy to the EU

Research showed that an alarmingly small proportion of flyers take a huge proportion of flights in Europe. Along with the new restrictions on flight routes and prices, the travel pass could be a major step towards reducing travel emissions. 

The deutschlandticket has been hailed as the ‘biggest public transport reform in German history,’ by authorities, according to euronews. What’s more, VDV, a German Transport Association, estimates that 1.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions were saved between July and August 2023, thanks to people using the pass. 

Now that the conditions of the French rail pass are set in stone, it will hopefully be available from summer 2024. 

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