France and Germany announce 60,000 free train tickets this summer

Young people across France and Germany may be able to benefit from free rail tickets this summer, part of a joint initiative to strengthen ties between the two countries.

France and Germany announce 60,000 free train tickets this summer
A 2019 photo at the Gare de l'Est railway station in Paris showing a French SNCF's INOUI high speed TGV train and a Deutsche Bahn (DB) ICE high speed train. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP)

French and Germany transport ministers announced in a joint press release that 60,000 free train tickets would be made available to young people to help facilitate exchange between the two countries this summer.

The release did not specify the age restrictions, but the ‘young person’s railcard’ schemes in France are available to people under 26.

French and German transport ministers Clément Beaune and Volker Wissing announced that “60,000 tickets will be made available free of charge, according to terms and conditions which will be specified shortly”.

The scheme will be supported financially by both countries’ national rail service – SNCF for France, and Deutsche Bahn for Germany. French media reported that tickets will be allocated through a draw.

The goal of the free ticket plan, which is set to be put into place during the summer of 2023, is to encourage young people to travel between the two countries, and to build up more cultural exchange between France and Germany. 

It was announced to coincide with the 60th anniversary of France and Germany signing of the Élysée Treaty – which helped to build bilateral cooperation between the former adversaries.

The two heads of state – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron, met in Paris on Sunday to mark the occasion.

READ MORE: France, Germany firm up ties as European ‘driving force’

Additionally, 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.

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

READ MORE: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

The French transport ministry also highlighted that the free ticket scheme is not 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.

READ MORE: Planes, trains, and ferries: The new international travel routes from France in 2023

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. 

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Germany’s Lufthansa suspends flights to Israel and Iraq

German airline group Lufthansa on Friday suspended flights to Israel and Iraq until early Saturday after Israel reportedly carried out retaliatory strikes against arch-foe Iran.

Germany's Lufthansa suspends flights to Israel and Iraq

Services by airlines of the group to Tel Aviv in Israel and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan were suspended until around 6am (CET) on Saturday due to the “current situation”, a spokesman told AFP.

Lufthansa subsidiary Austrian Airlines also decided as a “precautionary measure” to suspend flights to Jordan’s capital Amman, as well as Erbil and Tel Aviv on Friday “to comprehensively reassess the security situation”.

“Austrian Airlines continuously monitors and assesses the security situation in the Middle East and is in close contact with the authorities,” Austrian Airlines said in a statement sent to AFP.

Another subsidiary of the German group, SWISS, said it was suspending Zurich-Tel Aviv services until April 25.

Explaining the relatively long suspension, it said repeated cancellations at short notice in recent weeks had caused problems for passengers.

“With this measure, we aim to provide stability, reliability, and predictability for passengers and flight crews,” it added.

World leaders called for de-escalation, after United States media quoted officials saying Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes on Iran, after the Islamic republic’s missile and drone attack against Israel.

Both Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines have already suspended their flights to and from Tehran up until the end of the month.