So what just happened with Britain’s membership of Interrail?

Eurostar. Image: Getty.

The Interrail pass, which allows European citizens to travel around 31 different countries by train and ferry, was first launched in 1972. Since then Europe’s trains have been full of backpackers travelling across the continent from Edinburgh through to Istanbul, using just a single train ticket.

On Wednesday, for the first time in its history, The Rail Delivery Group, the membership body for the British rail industry, announced that, from the start of 2020, interrailers would need separate tickets to travel around Britain. The Eurostar would be only train on British soil on which an interrailing ticket was valid. The RDG also announced that Britain would pull out of Eurail, a scheme which offers an equivalent ticket to non-EU nationals.

However, within 24 hours this decision had been reversed. “Britain’s train companies never wanted to leave interrail,” the RDG claimed.

So why the massive U-turn? And why, if Britain’s train companies never wanted to leave, did the Rail Delivery Group announce that Britain was leaving?

Britrail

One explanation that’s been put forward is that UK rail firms wanted to stay in Interrail but leave EUrail.

Some background is important here. Historically, the EUrail pass has not covered the British rail network: travellers from outside of Europe have instead been forced to buy an additional Britrail pass to visit Britain. (EU rail passes were briefly trialled in Britain at the start of this year.)

But the European rail authorities recently made the decision to merge the Eurail pass and Interrail pass into a single ticket. That means British rail companies will lose out on the additional revenue gained from the more expensive – and thus more profitable - Britrail tickets.

One reading of the events of this week is that the British rail industry hoped to use the thread of withdrawal from Interail to get its way on not being forced to accept EUrail tickets. If so this backfired, as it led, in effect, to Britain being

kicked out of Interrail – and the climbdown following a public backlash.

(Editor’s note: Is this reminding anyone else of other aspects of the relationship between Britain and Europe? Just me?)

What would have been the consequences if Britain had stopped using interrail?

The decision to leave interrail was met with a huge amount of resistance from both politicians and the public, including transport secretary Grant Shapps

Despite this not being related to leaving the EU & even though it doesn't primarily impact on UK citizens, it will make it harder for everyone else to explore the UK. A COUNTERPRODUCTIVE move in my view & I'm therefore calling on the @RailDeliveryGrp to reverse their decision! https://t.co/0KI8vG7rqs

— Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) August 8, 2019

Some commentators feared that the decision would unfairly add additional travel costs to those outside of London. Many UK residents would no longer be able to start their interrail journey from their home station, preventing them from travelling abroad using the most convenient route,

In addition, the additional costs would have put visitors to Britain off travelling beyond London, damaging the tourist industry around the country.

This is UK tourism policy in a nutshell. Let all the tourists come to central London, but god forbid someone from abroad might want to see Edinburgh, or Liverpool, or the Yorkshire Moors, or Stratford, or Stonehenge or... https://t.co/LG7CNFnAcp

— Ste JM (@stejormur) August 7, 2019

Other critics also referred to the potential impact that this could have on the climate.

This will make more people outside London and the South East fly to continental Europe with the resulting impact on climate emissions.

— Nigel Bagshaw (@nigelbagshaw) August 7, 2019

So what happens now?

Ermm, basically nothing. With the decision reversed it means that all interrailing action should take place as normal. Britons and tourists will now be able to travel freely across the UK and enjoy its many sights.

Seems like:

- UK rail firms wanted to stay in Interrail but leave EUrail, so they could sell more profitable BritRail pass

- EUrail says no, they come as a pair

- UK says ‘lol ok kick us out if u dare’

- EUrail kicks them out

- UK comes crawling backhttps://t.co/1CtufMNzUX

— Jon Stone (@joncstone) August 8, 2019

 
 
 
 

There isn’t a war on the motorist. We should start one

These bloody people. Image: Getty.

When should you use the horn on a car? It’s not, and anyone who has been on a road in the UK in living memory will be surprised to hear this, when you are inconvenienced by traffic flow. Nor is it when you are annoyed that you have been very slightly inconvenienced by another driver refusing to break the law in a manner that is objectively dangerous, but which you perceive to be to your advantage.

According to the Highway Code:

“A horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger.”

Let’s be frank: neither you nor I nor anyone we have ever met has ever heard a horn used in such a manner. Even those of us who live in or near places where horns perpetually ring out due to the entitled sociopathy of most drivers. Especially those of us who live in or near such places.

Several roads I frequently find myself pushing a pram up and down in north London are two way traffic, but allow parking on both sides. This being London that means that, in practice, they’re single track road which cars can enter from both ends.

And this being London that means, in practice, that on multiple occasions every day, men – it is literally always men – glower at each other from behind the steering wheels of needlessly big cars, banging their horns in fury that circumstances have, usually through the fault of neither of them, meant they are facing each other on a de facto single track road and now one of them is going to have to reverse for a metre or so.

This, of course, is an unacceptable surrender as far as the drivers’ ego is concerned, and a stalemate seemingly as protracted as the cold war and certainly nosier usually emerges. Occasionally someone will climb out of their beloved vehicle and shout and their opponent in person, which at least has the advantages of being quieter.

I mentioned all this to a friend recently, who suggested that maybe use of car horns should be formally restricted in certain circumstances.

Ha ha ha. Hah.

The Highway Code goes on to say -

“It is illegal to use a horn on a moving vehicle on a restricted road, a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit, between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 07:00 a.m.”

Is there any UK legal provision more absolutely and comprehensively ignored by those to whom it applies? It might as well not be there. And you can bet that every single person who flouts it considers themselves law abiding. Rather than the perpetual criminal that they in point of fact are.


In the 25 years since I learned to drive I have used a car horn exactly no times, despite having lived in London for more than 20 of them. This is because I have never had occasion to use it appropriately. Neither has anyone else, of course, they’ve just used it inappropriately. Repeatedly.

So here’s my proposal for massively improving all UK  suburban and urban environments at a stroke: ban horns in all new cars and introduce massive, punitive, crippling, life-destroying fines for people caught using them on their old one.

There has never been a war on motorists, despite the persecution fantasies of the kind of middle aged man who thinks owning a book by Jeremy Clarkson is a substitute for a personality. There should be. Let’s start one. Now.

Phase 2 will be mandatory life sentences for people who don’t understand that a green traffic light doesn’t automatically mean you have right of way just because you’re in a car.

Do write in with your suggestions for Phase 3.