Major abandons the dwindling railway

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The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR travelled by rail only once last year, according to figures which Labour claims show the Prime Minister shares Baroness Thatcher's famed antipathy towards train travel.

Statistics culled by Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham, from Parliamentary Answers, show Major to be joint bottom of the ministerial league of train-travellers, along with frequent flyer and Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd.

The figures came to light as Labour called for the resignation of rail passengers' ombudsman John Swift over claims that he plans to abandon the present system of through-ticketing.

Mr Swift dismissed as "speculative'' reports that through-tickets, allowing travel anywhere in the UK, will be sold at only one in 10 stations after British Rail is split into 25 companies. Mr Swift is said to have set a maximum of 50 miles, or one hour'

s drive, from stations from which travellers can buy a full range of tickets.

Mr MacShane's figures showed that few ministers have much personal experience of the rail network. John Gummer, for example, notched up only five journeys in 1994 despite making public pleas for more sensible car use. Gillian Shephard travelled eight times, while Ian Lang and Malcolm Rifkind reported two journeys. Top of the list of train-users is David Hunt, with 55 journeys. Second is William Waldegrave, with 33, followed by Michael Portillo, with 25.

Mr MacShane said: "It is clear why Mr Major is so willing to privatise our rail services even if it means reducing them to a skeleton - he simply never uses them.

"Of course there are security implications, but if Prime Minister Balladur of France and Chancellor Kohl of Germany can travel regularly by train, then so can Mr Major."