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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 01:42 GMT 02:42 UK
Royal travel costs slashed
Royal Train
Carriages from the Royal Train have been sold
The cost of Royal travel by plane and train has fallen by more than two-thirds over three years, according to the government's spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said savings were achieved by replacing RAF helicopters with the Royal Household's own helicopter service and switching to smaller jets.

The Queen at Royal Ascot
The Queen's air travel is now cheaper
Spending on Royal travel by train has fallen by nearly 60% with the cost per mile falling by 71%.

The cuts were made possible by the sale of five surplus Royal Train carriages for 235,000.

According to a report to Parliament by NAO head Sir John Bourn, spending by the royals since April 1997 on air and rail travel totalled 39m.

The annual figure has fallen from 17.3m in 1997-98 to an estimated 5.4m in 2000-01, a cut of 69%.

Since 1997, the Royal Household has taken responsibility for managing its own air and rail travel costs with government aid.

Sir John 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.

No overheads

"A change in the basis of charging will bring further savings for the taxpayer."

At the suggestion of the NAO, charges for royal flights by the RAF's 32 (The Royal) Squadron will in future be based only on "variable costs" and will exclude Ministry of Defence overheads.

A switch to variable-cost charging will allow the Royal Household to use the squadron when the variable cost is lower than the cost of a charter.

Air travel has gone from an initial budget of 17.2m in 1997-98 to 7.5m in 1999-2000.

Over the same period, the number of air miles travelled by members of the Royal Family fell by 6%.

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