New Rail-Car Proposal

The latest twist in the marketing marriage between rail and car travel in Europe is a new program between French National Railroads and Hertz. You can now get nine days of unlimited first-class rail travel and five days' use of a Hertz rental car with unlimited mileage throughout most of Europe. Surprisingly, travel through France isn't a requirement.

The rail-drive combination, called the "Hertz Eurail Drive Escape," costs $399 U.S. per person, based on two people traveling together. Solo travelers would have to pay an extra supplement of $100, according to a Hertz spokeswoman.

The big advantage of the program is the flexibility provided in being able to make plans on a more day-to-day basis.

Both the nine days of rail travel and five days of auto use have to come within a 21-day period, but neither the train nor car travel have to be on consecutive days.

Accordingly, you can break your journey at any point without the time counting against you.

The rail portion of the program, which you can purchase separately and on an individual basis, is Eurail's already-announced new Flexipass that allows nine non-consecutive days of unlimited first-class rail travel within a 21-day period for $310.

For $89 extra you get the Hertz car for five days, with the convenience of choosing the days and countries in which you use the auto.

The price also includes the value added tax, which you might otherwise have to pay on car rentals. You also avoid a charge for the number of kilometers you drive, the Hertz spokeswoman added.

The rail and auto travel can be in any of the 16 countries featuring the Eurail system.

In some cases it's possible to pick up a car in one country and drop it off in another at no extra charge.

There is usually free drop off within the same country.

You also get such other Eurail perks as free or reduced rates on various steamers, ferries and buses, including transportation on the Rhine and Danube rivers, on some Swiss lakes and on the Silja Line between Finland and Sweden.

The rail-drive program has to be bought in the United States through travel agents, and the first day of the car rental has to be reserved 14 days in advance.

The remaining four car-rental days can be reserved within Europe. Hertz has more than 1,000 locations throughout Europe, many near railroad stations. Economy class cars with manual transmissions will be provided.

Car upgrades and such optional charges as collision damage waiver are up to the traveler.

Note: French National Railroads, in conjunction with Avis, also has comparable rail and drive passes within France.

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