Brexit woes: Europe's Interrail passes to Britain will come to a halt in 2020

European travellers will be unable to use Interrail passes in Britain from next year, in a blow to the decades-old scheme beloved of backpackers, train firms said Wednesday.

British and European rail companies blamed each other for the step - although they insisted it was "nothing to do" with Britain's impending departure from the EU.

Britons will still be able to buy and use Interrail tickets in European countries, they said.

"Travellers who buy a Eurail or Interrail Global Pass in 2020 will no longer be able to travel in Great Britain," the Eurail group, which represents 35 European train companies and is headquartered in the Dutch city of Utrecht, said in a statement.

Passes bought in 2019 would remain valid.

READ: What you should know about travelling through Eastern Europe by train

Undersea Eurostar trains running between London and Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam would also not be affected, it said.

Interrail passes currently let EU citizens use trains across 31 countries. Eurail passes are for non-EU citizens, for example tourists coming from America or Asia.

Britain's Rail Delivery Group, which represents British train companies, said the Eurail group "has decided to end our membership from 1 January 2020, despite us wanting to remain part of the group."

It said it had ended a trial of the Eurail pass in favour of a homegrown variant called Britrail. "As a result the Eurail Group are terminating our membership of Interrail," the British group said.

"Just to confirm this is nothing to do with Brexit," it added.

Interrail passes cost between 20 euros (about R335,94 at R20/euro) and 400 euros (about R6 718,86) depending on how long they last and how many of the 30 participating countries they cover.

READ: Qatar opens new metro - as country readies itself for 2022 football World Cup

The EU planned two years ago to give all 18-year-olds free Interrail passes but derailed the scheme because it was too expensive.

Launched in 1972, Interrail passes were initially designed for young passengers but are now available for all age groups.

A so-called "Interrail generation" grew up using the passes to experience different cultures and countries on the cheap in the years before mobile phones and social media.

Interrail passes were immortalised in the 1994 film "Before Sunrise", in which an American tourist played by Ethan Hawke falls in love with a French woman (Julie Delpy) on a train to Vienna.

Find Your Escape by signing-up for the Traveller24 Weekly Newsletter – Subscribe hereOr download the News24 App hereto receive expertly curated travel ideas and deals directly to your mobile.