BISHOP Auckland MP Helen Goodman has submitted more claims for first class rail travel this year than any other member of parliament, according to reports this weekend.

The Sunday Telegraph claimed Ms Goodman was one of more than 180 MPs who are exploiting a loophole in House of Commons rules which normally require members to travel by standard class.

According to the report, Ms Goodman has claimed for 49 first class tickets, totalling £4,700.

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The claims comply with the rules because MPs can travel first class if their ticket is cheaper than the standard “anytime” fare – the most expensive standard class fare available for short notice journeys.

Buying a first class ticket well in advance can work out cheaper than the “anytime” ticket bought at short notice.

Ms Goodman said: “All my tickets are cheaper or equal to the standard fare, so there have been no excessive claims or waste of taxpayers’ money.

“My constituency is 300 miles from London and my constituents expect to be able to see me each week.

“The Telegraph are trying to distract attention from the disastrous effect this government is having on the country.”

The spotlight was turned on rail fares after the row over Chancellor George Osborne sitting in a first class carriage with a standard ticket.

Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: “It is is extremely rare for first class to really be the most affordable option.

"If MPs can get themselves organised to order a first class ticket in advance, they should be able to order a standard class ticket in plenty of time as well and it will almost always be cheaper.

“If standard class travel isn't good enough for MPs, particularly the transport ministers responsible for the service, it isn't good enough for ordinary commuters who pay for their own tickets.”