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 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 after inflation-busting average rises of 4.2% 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 that there are no restrictions on ministers taking the “red boxes” that contain their government papers on public transport.

BRITAIN’S BEST SELLER
As the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) announces its annual figures for the UK New Car registration 2012, toy company Little Tikes celebrates that its iconic Cozy Coupe toy car has actually driven away with the top spot.

The company, owned by US toy giant MGA Entertainment, sold 156,693 Cozy Coupes in the UK alone, placing it in pole position ahead of the Ford Fiesta, which saw 109,265 new registrations in 2012.

Furthermore, Little Tikes reports it has seen a boost in sales of Cozy Coupes of some 25,000 vehicles compared to its 2011 figures.

PARK ‘N’ NOT PAY
Two pay and display machines have been stolen in Kidderminster, prompting police to appeal for witnesses.

One was stolen from the car park outside Matalan, off Park Lane, at about 8.30pm on January 13.

Thieves were seen on CCTV reversing a white transit-style van into the machine before putting it in the van and driving off, West Mercia Police said.

A second machine was taken on January 15 at about 10pm from the car park at Kidderminster Hospital. Again, a white transit-style van was seen reversing into the machine.

Two men dressed in dark clothing jumped out of the back of the vehicle and grabbed the machine before they drove off along Blakebrook.

Just before the turning to St John’s Avenue the machine fell out of the van and it stopped for the men to retrieve it.

A white transit van, with registration RN02 ATZ and with damage consistent with having been used in the thefts, was found at 3am on Wednesday on Hoo Farm Industrial Estate in Kidderminster. It was stolen on January 10 from a driveway in the Habberley area when it was left unattended while being defrosted.

Investigating officer PC Tom Court said: “Forensic examinations are currently being carried out on the van and we are eager to hear from anyone who thinks they may have seen it since it was stolen last week.

“We also would like to hear from anyone who may have seen these offences taking place or thinks they know who is involved.”

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