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Royal train faces axe

The Royal Train looks set to follow the Royal Yacht into oblivion after the Government announced yesterday that it was changing the way Royal travel is to be funded.

The Royal Family will in future receive a single grant for transport each year, rather than having the costs of the train and the Royal Squadron met automatically by the Department of Transport and the Ministry of Defence. The members of the Royal Family will then have to decide how best to spend that money and the train is unlikely to be affordable.

Last year, the cost of their travel was more than pounds 9m and the 31 outings cost an average of pounds 61,290 including security expenses, a total of pounds 1.9m for the year. It was used by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal and the Duchess of Kent. With a tighter budget, they are likely to choose cheaper methods of travel, such as hiring the odd first-class carriage.

The proposal is thought to have been finalised at the recent Way Ahead Group meeting at Balmoral last month. The group, which consists of senior members of the family and advisers, looks at possible reforms of the monarchy as well as planning public engagements.

The Royal Yacht Britannia is set to be decommissioned next year because the cost of a replacement was considered too high and the Royals are trying to shed their ostentatious image.

The new grant will come from the Department of Transport, which will expect to make annual cuts to the amount. In answer to a parliamentary question, the Prime Minister, John Major, said yesterday that a similar scheme for "property services on the occupied royal palaces" provided a suitable model. This had led to "savings in excess of 25 per cent" over the past five years.

He said: "Once the new system is established, targets for savings will be agreed and performance against them published [annually]."