East Anglia: Rail bonuses defended as delays fall

A Greater Anglia train

A Greater Anglia train - Credit: citizenside.com

HUGE bonuses for four Network Rail bosses have been defended by a rail users’ group and a local MP – despite serious problems on East Anglia’s main line earlier this year.

Four directors of the not-for-profit rail infrastructure company have been awarded bonuses totalling well over £600,000 for the period 2009-12.

The news comes as train operator Greater Anglia said its services were now more punctual than at any time since the region’s rail franchise was formed in 2004.

During March 93.6% of the company’s trains ran on time – including 92.5% of mainline trains and 91.8% of rural services. The total figure was boosted by the company’s Metro and West Anglia services.

Network Rail’s long-term incentive plan payments, including £168,000 to finance director Patrick Butcher, come at a time when rail regulators have been critical of NR’s performance on the railways.

Under the plan, network operations managing director Robin Gisby and infrastructure projects managing director Simon Kirby both get £158,400, while group strategy director Paul Plummer picks up £148,400.

The payments, reflecting the company’s performance in the period 2009-12, could have been higher but NR said 20% had been cut “to take account of specific safety and train performance issues”.

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Network Rail also said that the payments would be phased, with 60% paid now and the balance to be reviewed at the end of the 2013/14 financial year. The company added that the award had been delayed by a year.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with Network Rail’s performance, particularly on long-distance routes.

However Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said the new management at Network Rail had made major improvements and deserved to be rewarded.

He said: “I have been very critical of Network Rail in the past, but the new chief executive David Higgins is doing very well and has brought together a very good team.

“The performance is improving considerably and it is right that the senior people get rewarded for that – they could earn very much more in the private sector.”

The chairman of the Essex Rail Users’ Federation Derek Monnery said the bonus figure did appear to be “rather high.”

He said: “I don’t know what these directors are paid or what proportion of their income is paid in bonuses, but the figures do look rather high.

“However it would be rather uncharitable not to accept that things have been better over the last year or so in general anyway.”

There had been serious reliability problems in January – mainly caused by signalling and track problems.

He said: “It seems as if Network Rail still has to sort out how its equipment operates in the coldest weather.”

Greater Anglia managing director Ruud Haket said: “Our relentless focus on delivering better train service punctuality is positively reflected in these latest performance statistics.

“Once more, the alliance with Network Rail and the increased reliability of our fleet of trains has helped to achieve an excellent four-week period of performance and the best-ever annual average punctuality across the Greater Anglia network.”

Greater Anglia and Network Rail are also working to ensure most weekends this year are free from engineering work – the main line to London will be clear every weekend this year apart from one Sunday in early October.

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