Royals reduce travel costs by two-thirds

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The Royal Family has reduced its travel costs by two-thirds in three years, according to a report produced by the National Audit Office yesterday.

The amount of money spent since the Royal Household took over managing its own air and rail journeys was reduced from £17.3m in 1997-98 to an estimated £7.5m in 1999-2000.

The NAO said further savings could be made through changes it has asked the Ministry of Defence to make on charging the Royal Family for the use of the Royal Squadron.

The change from charging full costs to variable costs for the use of the RAF squadron would mean it would cost less to use the squadron than private charter planes. The changes in the amount charged for their use comes after the MoD acknowledged that the primary purpose of the squadron was military operations and the Royal Family was using spare capacity.

Most of the travel savings had been achieved by replacing RAF helicopters with the Household's own helicopters and switching from BAe 146 aircraft to the smaller BAe 125.

The amount spent on royal train travel has fallen by nearly 60 per cent, from £1.8m in 1997-98 to £800,000 in 1999-2000. The NAO said this was due to reducing the number of carriages from 14 to nine, "rationalisation" of coach maintenance, and renegotiating planning and co-ordination charges.

Older members of the Household, including the Duke of Edinburgh, had been using their OAP rail passes for the past three years, Buckingham Palace has said. Savings were made even on the transport of the Princess of Wales' body from Paris, the cost paid through an insurance claim.

Sir John Bourn, the comptroller and auditor general, said: "The Royal Household has made very good progress in making significant reductions in expenditure on royal travel whilst maintaining flexibility and standards of provision."