After 50 years of allowing international visitors to travel freely by train along the French Riviera and into the Alpes-Maritimes, Interrail tickets are now no longer valid on many trains in south-eastern France.
PACA, the regional railway company that operates Transport Express Régional (TER) services in the Provence-Alpes-Maritimes-Côte d’Azur region, says Interrail-issued passes – and its global variant Eurail – are no longer desired on its trains are.
The ban covers the coastal corridor from Marseille via Toulon, Cannes and Nice to Monaco and the Italian border town of Ventimiglia. In addition, regional trains from Lyon to Marseille serving Avignon and Arles are blocked.
Interrailers can travel on the TGV high-speed trains on these routes – but only with prior reservation and payment of a supplement.
Some of the country’s most spectacular railways require pass holders to purchase regular tickets. These include the route from Marseille to Gap and Briançon, Cannes to Grasse and Nice up the mountains to Turin in Italy.
The organization Interrail, based in Utrecht in the Netherlands, has sent out an “Urgent message regarding TER trains in the south of France”.
The Bulletin explains: “The regional transport authority in the SudPAC region of France (South-Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) does not accept Interrail/Eurail passes on board TER trains.
“We are currently investigating the matter directly with SNCF (France’s national railway company and [a] shareholders of Eurail BV) to understand what this means for you as a traveller.”
Mark Smith, the international rail guru known as The Man In Seat 61, likened the move to “Cumbria withdrawing from the Senior Railcard program”.
“It’s tearing a big hole in Interrail/Eurail across southern France,” he said.
He warns: “Until this issue is resolved, international travelers are strongly advised not to include the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in their travel plans.”
After the problem became widely known among rail travelers, the Interrail organization took the remarkable step of guaranteeing that it will refund tickets that pass holders have to buy – and even pay their onboard fines.
Interrail customers were told: “We want to ensure that this development disrupts your plans as little as possible. So for now, buy a full price ticket to continue your journey on TER trains. We will reimburse the costs incurred for this.
“If you received a fine on board, we will reimburse these costs as well. Please keep as many documents as possible to submit with your claim. This includes receipts for tickets or fines, the number of the train you traveled on and the date the fine was issued.”
Interrail celebrated its 50th anniversary in May with a half-price offer. Tens of thousands of British travelers are said to have bought the passes.