In the cases where a first class train ticket is actually less expensive than the available standard class options, staff in DWP have been told to opt for the pricier package because of “public perception”.

In an email seen by Scrapbook, civil servants are told the department’s Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux has banned first class travel “irrespective of grade or journey length” and, for that matter, cost:

“A First Class ticket is cheaper than standard, why can I not book it?”

Such occasions are rare and generally arise if you are booking close to your departure date. Even if you are booking at least a week in advance and First Class is still cheaper, you are still required to purchase the standard ticket; it is a matter of public perception and overall, a First Class ban will save the department a significant amount.

Good to see “public perception” is actually more important than saving money.

  1. I believe exactly the same policy applies in the FCO. And it’s a serious point – when I was a Civil Servant travelling frequently on official business a business-class ticket was often cheaper than standard class, depending on when you booked and whether you needed flexibility, especially if you were flying.

    It was never about saving money and much more to do with putting public sector employees in their place.

  2. Sadly, while we live in a society where tabloid headlines of “Civil servants travel 1st class” is going to generate inches of outrage, it is sensible to have such a ban in place.

    Rather than blaming the department from preventing a media outrage, why not wonder why we live in a society where misleading news headlines are permitted without some requirement for the facts to be presented impartially.

  3. I agree with Iain. The number of times that arguments are put forward particularly in the red tops and tabloid, so called “middle market” papers, with absolutely no substantiation, is frightening. And how often does an eye grabbing headline turn out to have conveyed the entirely wrong idea. I can imagine the headline “Scandal of posh civil servants” and a sub heading “(Too good to travel with ordinary people)” conjuring visions of Nicholas Winterton and his likes, and towards the bottom of the article an admission that it was actually 33% cheaper.

    Newspapers, which have such influence, should be made to be much more responsible. By the same token someone needs to do something very serious about the ridiculous ticketing system on the railways in the UK.

  4. Sorry, but it’s nothing to do with the Public Sector although of course the tabloids don’t help. If you empower people, then you need to have a way of monitoring and controlling and this would cost more than the marginal savings.

  5. Dave Holladay says:

    Given that most Public Servants are making similar journeys there is a case to drive reform in the way the National Rail system delivers this resource to the National Government – which funds a lot of its operating costs.

    Many journeys can be made with carnet tickets – as already available in Scotland – 509 voucher Company Carnet can be handed to staff for the popular Edinburgh – Glasgow route. The discounted price can be put to be best value , and no travel expenses claims to sift through. Perhaps the Dutch example for say £4000/year a staff travel pass valid with the Civil Service i/d card for use on business, and issued like the pool car keys

    Simple budgetary control predictable annual travel spend, and herd nosed negotiation of discount for up front purchase of travel. Of course it would work better with Nationally co-ordinated rail operations.

  6. Henry Tickner says:

    Even paying for myself, I’ll sometimes pay extra to travel first class if it’s important to arrive unfrazzled at the other end – and obvs I leap at the chance when it’s cheaper.

    But the real question is – why should this question arise at all? I’m sure it suits the shareholders to charge a premium for civilised surroundings, but wouldn’t it be lovely if we could forget this first- and second-class nonsense and just have a decent standard service with transparent and predictable pricing? I can dream (or emigrate).

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