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Civil servants spending too much on expensive rail and air travel – NAO

Far too many civil servants are buying first class travel tickets and expensive ‘anytime’ flexible fares, a National Audit Office (NAO) investigation has shown.

Noting that “inappropriate travel expenditure can seriously damage reputations”, the NAO has revealed that in 2013-14, central government departments booked 1.2 million rail journeys.

Of these, 41% were the most expensive kind – anytime tickets. These are the most flexible type of ticket, but cost far more than off-peak fares or those booked in advance that are tied to particular train services.



Only 1% of rail journeys were first class, which still amounts to 13,654 tickets. The Coalition said when it came into office that first class fares “should be avoided by all public servants wherever possible”, but never outright banned them. The Department for Transport, Ministry of Justice and HMRC had the greatest proportion of first-class tickets.

Air travel had a greater proportion of first-class flights booked – of 304,000 flights, 94% were economy class, and 6% a higher-cost type of journey.

The NAO noted: “The centre of government has little oversight of official travel, leaving that role to departments, although it does seek to manage the price of travel purchased through the use of central procurement frameworks. It does not monitor overall demand for travel since it sees this also as the responsibility of departments.”

Demand is not being managed well enough, it says, as travel expenditure has grown 11% in real terms since 2010-11 despite headcount reductions and advances in video and teleconferencing technology.

Fewer overnight hotel bookings are being made, though.

The NAO said that just finding the figures was complex, due to the lack of central oversight. Bravo Solutions, which runs the Cabinet Office analytics tool to capture procurement information from across government, has identified £546m in central government travel expenditure, covering all travel booked through Crown Commercial Service (CCS) frameworks and most booked with a government procurement card.

Bookings made through RM918, the largest CCS framework, accounted for £327m of central government travel.

The full report is here.


Mike From Raileasy   11/03/2015 at 16:28

There's massive savings on anytime tickets with split ticketing, you can check at

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