Essex: Questions raised over decision to award Network Rail bosses huge bonuses days after £53m fine for poor punctuality
- Credit: Archant
An Essex rail users’ group last night questioned the decision to award Network Rail bosses huge bonuses just days after the company was fined £53million for poor punctuality.
Bonuses worth thousands of pounds a year are being lined up for NR’s top bosses, but Derek Monnery, the chairman of Essex Rail Users’ Federation (ERUF), said the funds should instead be spent on upgrading the region’s poor infrastructure, which often causes severe travel disruption.
He insisted the reasons for awarding the huge payoffs should be released in full and subject to public scrutiny.
It comes after the company, which looks after Britain’s tracks, signalling and stations, was fined £53.1m by the Office of Rail Regulation for missing punctuality targets on long- distance routes.
The company had been committed to deliver average punctuality levels of 92% on long-distance passenger services in 2013/14. But it “fell significantly short” with a figure of 86.9%, the rail watchdog said.
Over the period between 2009 and 2014 the watchdog revealed that 329,600 long distance trains ran late – or 73,100 more than its “target”.
But yesterday it emerged NR’s members, the equivalent of shareholders for a company that is a not-for-dividend firm, have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a new bonus scheme for the top executives.
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The scheme replaces, and is less generous than, the old bonus scheme, but chief executive Mark Carne and his fellow top bosses could still get up to a fifth of their annual salary in annual bonuses, should performance targets be reached.
Mr Carne is currently on a salary of £675,000 a year, so could get as much as £135,000 in bonuses for 2014/15, while group finance director Patrick Butcher, on £412,000, could get £82,400.
Asked whether the bosses deserved the extra income, Mr Monnery said: “It depends. They might have done some good work which we are not aware of, and Network Rail might have good reasons which should be made transparent for us all to see, but I suspect there might not be.
“I would actually be a lot happier if they got the infrastructure up to standard. It needs to be more reliable and they should spend more money on it. Action is needed.
“On June 17, the line was closed at Chelmsford, which I know for a fact was because of overhead (power) lines.”
Meanwhile, after MPs investigated deaths at level crossings, House of Commons Transport Committee chairman Louise Ellman called for NR chiefs’ bonuses to be suspended.
Following yesterday’s vote at NR’s annual meeting in Reading, Berkshire, Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA transport union said: “This is a slap in the face to all those bereaved (level crossing death) families which the Transport Committee found had been treated with callous disregard down the years by NR.
“Mark Carne should have re-set the company’s moral compass by cancelling these bonuses or, better still, donating the money to a rail safety charity.
“We welcome his move to cut back on bonuses in the future but he has missed a golden opportunity to demonstrate in practical terms his genuine commitment to improve level crossing safety on his watch.”