Network Rail bosses spent millions on flights because its cheaper than train travel

 
Lynsey Barber
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It's plane over train for rail bosses (Source: Getty)

Planes, trains, or automobiles? You may think you know where Network Rail stands when it comes to choosing the best way to travel, but think again.

The company has spent millions of pounds ferrying staff from one end of the country to the other - by plane.

The public sector body, which runs the nation's railway lines, has spent £1.3m on flights over the last two years because taking a plane was cheaper than taking the train, it admitted.

Some 8,353 domestic and 2.907 international flights were taken by staff between April 2013 and March this year, according to figures obtained by the Sun under a Freedom of Information request.

While commuters face delays, cancellations and packed trains into the capital (it's more stressful than going to the dentist or moving house), National Rail said staff taking flights were allowed to travel business class if the journey was longer than five hours.

The company defended its choice of transport as the most cost effective way of travelling.

If employees have to attend a 10am business meeting in Scotland it is to cheaper to fly up than take the train the night before and have to pay for overnight accommodation. For the majority of staff, rail is much the better way to go. A total of £1.3m was spent on flights in 2013/14 and 2104/15 but £32 million was spent on rail travel during that period.

Network Rail's 35,000 people have to pay the going rate for all travel, be it air, rail or car. Our people are also obliged to use the cheapest method available, sometimes that means by air but mostly we travel by rail."

In fact, the man who had to apologise for massive disruptions from over-running engineering works at Christmas spent the most on flights.

Robin Gisby, the former operations managing director, took 15 domestic flights costing £2,250, and spent another £4,430 on international flights.

Around 90 per cent of all the domestic flights were to Scotland, the rail company said, while international flights were taken as far afield as Australia and Japan.

In stark contrast to the UK, Japan's rail network is one of the best in the world, and its high-speed Maglev train recently broke the record for the world's fastest train.

Maybe there was inspiration for improving the UK's rail network?

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