In a year dedicated to bringing railways closer to citizens, author-activists Vincent-Immanuel Herr and Martin Speer (Herr & Speer) were recognised at the 2021 European Railway Award for their ‘outstanding citizen’s initiative’: the FreeInterrail movement.
FreeInterrail is the proposal to provide all EU citizens with a free Interrail ticket for their 18th birthday. The aim is to strengthen European integration, support environment-friendly modes of transport and promote Europe's youth. Vincent-Immanuel Herr and Martin Speer developed the idea during an Interrail journey in 2014 and quickly gathered a broad support base. They attracted not only Europe-wide media coverage and thousands of young supporters on social media, but also prominent EU-level political backing.
In 2017, the FreeInterrail movement reached its goal when the European Parliament voted in favour of the proposal leading to the highly successful ‘DiscoverEU’ programme. Organised for the first time in 2018, the programme has already made 70,000 travel passes available to 18-year olds with further application rounds foreseen. There is support for the continuation of the project longer term under the European Commission flagship programme Erasmus+.
The FreeInterrail initiative has made rail travel and the fascination for Europe a dream for the young generation once again.