Popularity of Europe's railways keeps on growing

As the world's fliers grapples with high oil prices, horrendous baggage fees and new government taxes, it seems that the leisurely, gentle train journey looks set to reap the rewards.

Eurail, the company which sells InterRail tickets for train travel around Europe, reported last week that the number of passes it sold to visitors to Europe jumped by 11.9 percent last year, to 427,000.

Interestingly, although there were predictable rises in the number of people buying rail passes from growing markets in Asia, it appears that the biggest jump has been in travelers from South America, where sales were up by a third.

It seems that more people than ever are looking to take the train - even Europeans, often unreservedly critical about their own rail systems, bought 6.2 percent more passes to explore their continent by rail last year.

Eurail says that of the one-country passes it sold, Italy's was by far the most popular last year, followed at a distance by Spain and in third place, Austria - France and Germany, with their modern, high-speed rail systems, apparently didn't get a look in the top three.

This week sees the release of the latest edition of Europe by Rail, a 704-page bible on how best to explore Europe using 50 of the region's best routes.

It's published by Thomas Cook, the company whose namesake first invented the idea of group holidays by rail in 1841 and published his first book on the topic in 1873, although the new editors, Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries, have made some significant changes since being appointed last year.

Among them are new routes, new "Sidetracks" sections to take travelers off the tracks, new country information and some small elements used in the original guides by Thomas Cook - who would no doubt be very pleased with the renaissance his favorite form of travel seems to be undergoing.

http://www.eurailgroup.com
http://www.europebyrail.eu

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