Rail Minister opts for Chauffeur Driven Commuting

Posted by at 7 January, at 12 : 47 PM Print

A new embarrassment to the Tories has emerged as it is revealed the Minister for Railways opts to take a chauffeur driven car to work, contributing to a cost to the tax payer of £80,000 per year.

MP Simon Burns travels the 35 miles from his home in Essex to Westminster five days a week using one of the ministerial pool cars, a Toyota Avensis. The chauffeur driven vehicle is said to cost around £400 per day to operate.
The Mail on Sunday claims that the Minister has opted to use the private vehicle to avoid the stress of taking overcrowded trains on his daily hike to work, something which London commuters will be all too aware of.

This disclosure could not have come at a worse time for the Tory party, appearing just days after the announcement of inflation busting hikes in rail fares, increasing the already eye watering cost of a season ticket to London from just over £2,500 to in excess of £3,000.

A spokesperson for Railfuture, the passenger’s campaign group, commented that it would be appropriate if the person who was responsible for the fare hikes actually experienced first-hand some of the discomfort and congestion experienced on a daily basis by the UK’s stressed out commuters.

The MP defended his position, claiming that he was actually saving the tax payers money by opting not to have a second home in London, and that he was keeping important documents and ministerial papers safer by travelling in private.

The Department for Transport also defended the minister, saying that it was his prerogative to use the governmental vehicle on a daily basis to aid security and speed of conveyance. The Ministerial Code, it says, permits the use of the pool cars to Ministers travelling from Westminster to a reasonable distance outside of London.
However, the Cabinet Office confirms that there is no restriction on Ministers taking their government papers on public transport, leading to a few raised eyebrows in London as everyday commuters continue to struggle with the overcrowding and high fiscal cost of rail travel.

The departmental pool car service was introduced on 1st April 2012 which meant individual ministers were no longer allocated vehicles for their use. Instead a fleet of cars was made available for use by ministers, most of whom choose to find other modes of transport for their day to day journeys.

Transport Minister Stephen Hammond stated that the only ministers to use the vehicles on a day to day basis were the Minister of State and the Secretary of State. He revealed that he himself used the pool cars occasionally and that the Under Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker, used the car only on a very occasional basis, and only for journeys of less than three miles.

The revelation was made following a well-placed Parliamentary question by Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who commented to the Mail on Sunday that the issue was an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money and was a poor example for the minister to set.

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