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Sunday, January 06, 2013

Letting the train take the strain

It is always dangerous to go down the route of criticising politicians for their expense claims, or even their mode of travel as one does not know the individual circumstances. Certainly, in my case I rarely use the train or the bus to travel to Cardiff because I often have to make stops all around my region on the way back for various meetings at times of the day and night that cannot be accommodated by public transport.

Nevertheless, the basis of this Daily Mail story does appear to be superficially intriguing and more adequate explanations should be forthcoming from the Minister concerned. Comfort does not appear to hack it as a reason why the Minister responsible for the rail network does not regularly catch readily-available trains on a reliable and convenient route, especially when his fellow ministers in the Transport department, and even the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, set such a good example.

Margaret Thatcher notoriously, did not use trains and it is reputed could not be coaxed to do so even for publicity. Is the Rail Minister seeking to emulate her?

The paper says that Simon Burns is ferried the 35 miles between his Essex home and his Whitehall office in the comfort of a Government car which costs the taxpayer £80,000 a year. The reason he gives for this is that he is barred from working on his Red Box of official Ministerial papers on the train for security reasons. However, the Cabinet Office says that Ministers can work on papers in public as long as they ensure sensitive material can not be seen.

In contrast, the three other Transport Ministers are remarkably frugal with their commuting arrangements. During the week, Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin makes the two-mile journey from his London home to his office either by walking or being collected in the other pool car, a £45,000 Land Rover Discovery. At weekends, he takes a train to his Derbyshire constituency.

Minister Stephen Hammond usually uses public transport to travel the eight miles to his Wimbledon home, ‘occasionally’ using a pool car, while Liberal Democrat Under-Secretary Norman Baker takes the train to and from his Lewes constituency twice a week, and otherwise travels from his London home to his office on foot or bus.

It is all a bit of a mess really but one that could be easily avoided with a little bit of effort on the part of the minister concerned.
Trains to Europe required tunnel drilling/blasting ... well, this will change all that:


Just imagine it, travelling out to Rhoose airport and getting on an Aeroscraft! Trip to Oslo - no problem governor.

How about the Welsh Assembly getting into this 'game changer' - yes, trips to Prague, trips to Iceland - Trips to NY, SF, Brazil - where ever...
Burns probably has the easiest rail journey to central London of all the transport ministers, too.

- Frank Little, who for six years had a daily commute on Southern Region.

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