Rail bosses spend £10,000 a week on flights – because it’s cheaper than trains

Network Rail Director Michelle Handforth expensed £8,000 worth of domestic flights

Oliver Pritchard-Jones
Monday 24 July 2023 11:08 BST
Rail and tube disruption resumes and is set to continue until early August

Network Railbosses splashed £10,000-a-week on air fares last year because it worked out cheaper than getting the train.

Figures showed that staff at the public body - which owns most of the UK’s railway network - bought 985 plane tickets for flights within the UK.

They bought a further 1,622 for international journeys, Freedom of Information data has revealed.

Many of these domestic journeys could have easily been done by rail - outraging green campaigners who pointed out that getting the train is far more environmentally-friendly.

Of the internal flights, 72 were between Birmingham and Glasgow which is served by a direct train line with one-way tickets costing up to £206.

And among the company’s staff, high-flying director Michelle Handforth - who pockets an annual salary of £330,000 - expensed £8,000 worth of domestic flights.

Mike Childs, from Friends of the Earth, told The Sun: “It’s a sorry indictment of the state of rail travel in the UK when industry bosses are choosing to fly.”

The news emerged as rail commuters battle with rising fees and have to deal with services which are frequently disrupted by industrial action.

In March, fares saw their biggest hike in a decade back when they increased by 5.9 per cent, figures obtained by The Sun showed.

Over recent months RMT workers have been walking out in a dispute over pay and conditions

Meanwhile, unions including the RMT and Aslef have brought much of the rail network to a standstill over recent months when they walked out as part of a continued dispute with their employers over pay and conditions.

All this came as Network Rail recently blamed strikes and inflation for it recording a £1.1bn loss last year.

The body also saw its net debt grow to £59.1 billion from £56.1 billion over the same period as a result.

A Network Rail spokesperson told The Independent that it will “always encourage our people to travel by rail, but flying is permitted where elements like time constraints are considered”.

Despite this, they said that “some 94 per cent of our business travel is by rail”.

The spokesperson added: “We are competing for top people in a tough global market.

“As a public body, with understandable restrictions on salary and rewards compared to the private sector, we have to be innovative and flexible in order to secure the services of great people from across the internationally competitive market, as we have done here.”

In a later statement, they added: “Most of our international flights were taken by our international consultancy arm, Network Rail Consulting.”

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