Across France for £1.35 per day: A new deal for young rail travellers

Young rail passengers will be able to roam wherever they wish on the French rail network during July and August for a flat rate of just £1.35 per day.

President Macron announced the plan for a one-month unlimited Le Pass Rail in September 2023. Initially it seemed to be an all-ages project intended to emulate the €49 Deutschlandticket – which opened up travel around Germany after the Covid pandemic.

After months of negotiations between central government, the regions and SNCF (French Railways), it turns out the scheme is open only for passengers under 27. There are also many restrictions on the trains that can be taken: high-speed TGV expresses are excluded, but so too are suburban services in the Paris region, Ile de France.

Crucially, it appears Le Pass Rail iis available only to people with an address in France.

These are the key questions and answers.

What’s the big idea?

Young people will be able to travel the length and breadth of mainland France in July and/or August for a flat fare of €49 (£42), which works out at £1.35 per day.

They will need an address in France to buy a ticket, either through SNCF Connect – the main vendor – or Trainline, the private company.

Former transport minister Clement Beaune, who was involved in setting up the scheme, called it “a tremendous step forward, of which I am very proud, for young people, ecology and mobility”.

But it comes with strings attached. The German scheme enabled travellers simply to buy a pass that was valid on local and regional transport everywhere in the country without further formality. In contrast, French passengers must “buy” a ticket – at zero cost – to make each journey.

This allows the partner organisations involved to understand who has travelled where so that cash can be allocated and data compiled for future planning.

Which trains are allowed?

The main services are TER (Transport Express Régional) trains, which comprise the main regional and local services across France. Examples include:

  • Calais to Amiens

  • La Rochelle to Bordeaux

  • Port Bou (Spanish station on the French border) via Perpignan to Avignon

  • Marseille to Nice

  • Lyon via Dijon to Paris (the slow and pretty way)

In addition, Le Pass Rail is available on Intercités trains. These are “classic” trains running on the conventional network rather than high-speed lines. In particular, they connect Paris with cities in south-central France off the high-speed network, such as Clermont-Ferrand, Vichy and Limoges. There are also regional links, including Nantes-Lyon and Bordeaux-Marseille.

Carriages with seats on night trains will also be available with the pass, though passengers will need to pay extra for a berth.

Which trains are definitely not allowed?

Pretty much everything else. All TGV high-speed trains – whether Inoui (the main brand) or low-cost Ouigo – are off limits. So too are high-speed trains run by foreign rail operators from Germany, Italy and Spain within France. The same applies to the Ouigo Classique network, running conventional trains between Paris and Le Mans, Nantes and Lyon.

Crucially, the entire RER (suburban express) network around Paris is excluded, as is the Metro system. Passengers who arrive from Orleans at Paris Austerlitz who wish to continue from Gare du Nord to Compiegne will need to pay extra for a ticket across the capital.

During the Paris Olympics in July and August, fares will increase to €4 for the Metro and €6 for the RER.

Some stations serving only the TGV network, including at Paris CDG and Lyon airports, will be inaccessible with Le Pass Rail.

Anything else?

Yes. Intercités trains, and some TERs in regions such as Normandy, will require reservations as well as tickets to control the numbers on trains during the busy summer months.