BR pension cash 'to go on royal train service'

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THE Government is planning to take pounds 730,000 from British Rail's pension fund to pay for improvements to the royal train service, and is trying to cover up its plans. That is the apparent implication of documents sent by civil servants to a parliamentary committee and obtained by the Independent, writes Tim Jackson. A paper put before the House of Commons transport select committee asks Parliament to 'increase provision for current expenditure on royal travel . . . with a corresponding decrease in the provision for government support of British Rail pension funds'.

Accounts also show an increase in spending for the year to March 1994 on the royal train service of pounds 730,000, and a cut of the same sum in funding to the pension fund. The changes will bring public spending on royal trains up to pounds 2.6m, and on pensions down to pounds 66.7m.

But a handwritten amendment removes the words 'corresponding decrease', and splits the trains increase and the pensions cut into items running first and last in a list of five items. Civil servants mistakenly sent the committee the draft, rather than the final document.

The Department of Transport maintained it was a routine accounting procedure.