Rail fares minister Simon Burns lets car take the strain

Rail fares minister Simon Burns

Rail fares minister Simon Burns

First published in Dartford & Swanley news News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

RAIL fares minister Simon Burns is under fire after it emerged he shuns commuting by train in favour of a costly chauffeur driven government car.

According to a report in the Mail on Sunday, the Conservative MP travels the 35 miles between his Essex home and Westminster using the £80,000 a year departmental car service.

The disclosure comes just days after inflation-busting average rises of 4.2 per cent for regulated rail fares, which include season tickets, took effect for passengers.

A spokesman for passengers' campaign group Railfuture told the newspaper: "It would be nice if the person who is setting these fare rises was also experiencing some of the congestion and overcrowding endured by ordinary, hard-pressed travellers."

Mr Burns reportedly defended his regular use of the Department for Transport (DfT) pool car by saying: "I have given up my second home in London and I commute to and from work carrying classified papers which I work on during my journey."

Cabinet Office officials confirmed that there are no restrictions on ministers taking the "red boxes" that contain their government papers on public transport.

Transport minister Stephen Hammond revealed details about the department's travel arrangements in parliamentary documents.

He said: "With the introduction of a departmental pool car service on April 1 2012, individual ministers are no longer allocated government cars.

“The Secretary of State (Patrick McLoughlin) and Minister of State use the pool cars on a daily basis.

“I use the pool cars occasionally and also use the top-up service as business requires it.

“The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker, used the car on an extremely occasional basis for journeys of less than three miles, the last date being November 20 2012."

Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who uncovered the arrangement through a parliamentary question, told the Mail on Sunday: "This looks to be an extremely poor use of taxpayers' money, and a very bad example for a minister to set."

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said non-classified documents could be taken on public transport.

She added: "The Ministerial Code provides for ministers to use a government car for home-to-office travel when working on classified papers."

A DfT spokesman said: "The Minister of State does not have a home in London but uses his commute to work on official papers and so travels in a car provided by the Government Car Service for security reasons.

“The Ministerial Code permits ministers to use official cars for home-to-office journeys within a reasonable distance of London when they are working on classified papers."

Comments (5)

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11:21am Sun 6 Jan 13

Polly Staight says...

Well he is very important, if he didn't get to work on time, nobody would know how much to put the train fares up.
Well he is very important, if he didn't get to work on time, nobody would know how much to put the train fares up. Polly Staight
  • Score: 0

11:31am Mon 7 Jan 13

londonlive says...

I find it laughable that we have a "rail fares minister" at all! Quite apart from the fact it's someone who obviously doesn't use the very services they are supposedly involved in. Plus what influence do they have? The train companies just say they will be putting up fares and the government agrees. Good old privatisation for you.
I find it laughable that we have a "rail fares minister" at all! Quite apart from the fact it's someone who obviously doesn't use the very services they are supposedly involved in. Plus what influence do they have? The train companies just say they will be putting up fares and the government agrees. Good old privatisation for you. londonlive
  • Score: 0

11:40am Mon 7 Jan 13

Gypo.Joe says...

Smug looking cant, looks like he really cares.
Smug looking cant, looks like he really cares. Gypo.Joe
  • Score: 0

11:57am Mon 7 Jan 13

madras says...

"I have given up my second home in London…’ - hardly a martyr, having now to travel all of 35 miles to/from work. JUST LIKE SO MANY OF YOUR FELLOW COMMUTERS

We’re all in it together, eh???
"I have given up my second home in London…’ - hardly a martyr, having now to travel all of 35 miles to/from work. JUST LIKE SO MANY OF YOUR FELLOW COMMUTERS We’re all in it together, eh??? madras
  • Score: 0

3:55pm Mon 7 Jan 13

Bestbaz says...

And who pays for this chauffer...you and me the taxpayer. One rule for ministers, and another for everyone else
And who pays for this chauffer...you and me the taxpayer. One rule for ministers, and another for everyone else Bestbaz
  • Score: 0

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