Rail fares minister under fire over travel expenses

09:06 06 January 2013

Simon Burns reportedly travels to Westminster by car rather than the train. File picture: PA Wire

Simon Burns reportedly travels to Westminster by car rather than the train. File picture: PA Wire

Conservative cabinet minister Simon Burns is under fire after it emerged he takes a chauffeur driven car to work in London rather than take the train.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the MP travels the 35 miles between his Essex home and Westminster using an £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 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 last night that there were 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.

A Cabinet Office spokesman 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.”

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