The state of the UK’s trains hasn’t exactly been top notch lately.
As calls to nationalise the railways sound off against the calls to privatise, the companies continuing to run the train lines are seemingly stuck between a rock and a hard place, continually hiking up prices to stay afloat.
So much so, in fact, Network Rail has told its employees to fly to their UK business meetings if it means saving money on rail fare.
The company’s new policy says members of staff should fly to their destination if it is cheaper than taking the train. The initiative comes after the recent news rail fares across the UK have risen by 3.1 per cent, as iNews reports.
Networks Rail’s expenses policy states:
UK air travel should be used where it represents the most cost effective option compared to the relevant train fare, when taking into account the total cost of the journey.
Over the last two years, the cheapest flight purchases by Network Rail staff was from Cardiff to Anglesey, which cost £19.99. The same journey by train, going via Holyhead, would have cost £84 for a flexible single ticket.
While a single flight from London Stansted to Glasgow cost staff £30.99, Newcaste to London Heathrow cost £73.31, and Southampton to Manchester cost £39.99.
Despite the cheaper prices, a spokesperson for Network Rail said only two per cent of staff chose to fly instead of taking the train, even if flying is cheaper. The spokesperson emphasised Network Rail is a public body, and so if it didn’t have a policy in place it could be accused of wasting public money.
They added: ‘With 98 per cent of our business travel made by rail, trains more often than not represent the best value.’
While it makes sense for the company to save money where possible, the advice for rail staff to not travel by rail has raised a few eyebrows.
It comes after a turbulent year for Network Rail, as major disruption plagued commuters across the UK throughout 2018. Despite this, company boss Mark Carne was awarded a CBE for services to the rail industry, amid the chaos of his company struggling under the confusion of new timetables.
The changes were labelled as ‘systemic failings’, as an inquiry by the Office of Rail and Road said Network Rail had ‘failed to comply with its licence requirements to run an efficient and effective process’.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.