British railways are a 'rich man's toy', Transport secretary Philip Hammond has told a committee of MPs.
Increases in rail fare prices mean that customers on lower incomes have been priced out of travelling by rail, he said at a meeting of the Transport Committee.
'People who use the railway on average have significantly higher incomes than the population as a whole - simple fact,' he said.
The minister described ticket prices on the West Coast Mainline as ranging from 'eye-wateringly expensive to really quite reasonable if you dig around and use the advance purchasing ticket options that are available'.
He also said that the planned new high speed link would probably be out of reach to factory workers.
But he insisted that even those who are too poor to enjoy rail travel would still benefit from projects like the planned HS2 high speed rail link between London and northern England - because their bosses will be able to get around easier.
'If you are working in a factory in Manchester you might never get on HS2 but you would certainly be benefiting from it if the sales director from your company is routinely hopping on it to jet round the world from Heathrow in a way that brings in orders that keep you employed,' he said.
Last month, the government announced it was changing the formula for calculating fare increases from the rate of inflation according to the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus 1 per cent to RPI plus 3 per cent.
With July's RPI remaining unchanged at five per cent, it means season ticket holders face a hike in fares of an average 8 per cent in the new year.