A TOUGH STANCE ON TRAVEL will save the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) £20 million by the end of the year, according to its head of business services.
Matthew Griffin said half of the savings would come from a revised rail travel policy introduced earlier this year.
Staff can no longer book first class travel for journeys of less than two hours, while pre-trip approval is required for any employee wanting to sit in the premium carriage for longer journeys.
Griffin said that this year only 2.3 per cent of the total number of tickets booked were in first class, down from 35 per cent last year, while 60 per cent were restricted advance purchase tickets, up 50 per cent on last year.
He said the challenge was obtaining sign-off on the stricter policy from the department's executive team, after which it was a "straightforward" task to obtain worker acceptance.
"The only complication was that the general election [in May] held up implementation by a month," Griffin said. "Compliance was high [from the start] and any non-compliance was reported to each executive to take action on fortnightly, which included league tables to show which area was working best."
Griffin said it had become compulsory for every worker to use the DWP's rail self-booking tool (thetrainline.com) and in rare cases contact the travel management company, Carlson Wagonlit Travel.
Compliance had already reached 98 per cent, according to Griffin, while the average price paid by the DWP for a rail fare was now £35, down from £55 in the third financial quarter of last year.
A 50 per cent reduction in air travel, a new consolidated hotel programme and growing use of video-conferencing made up the other £10 million-worth of savings, though Griffin said the DWP's reduction in conference spend - 70 per cent down on last year - was the single most significant area.
"Our policy asks [our travellers] not to travel first, before providing a list of options, one of which is video-conferencing. I changed the way we book video-conferencing to make it easier, and it's all online. We have six impressive tele-presence suites alongside 350 other units across our estate."
Griffin said he was pleased with the progress made so far this year but that further cuts and the 2012 Olympics would present even tougher challenges.