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Call to halt Network Rail bonuses

The Government was today urged to halt a new bonus scheme for Network Rail executives which a union complained would give performance payments of 60% on top of their salaries.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) urged Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to scale back the new scheme, claiming that NR chief executive Dave Higgins could earn a bonus of £336,000 on top of his annual salary of £560,000.

The new scheme will be put to a vote of NR's members at a meeting tomorrow, which the TSSA claimed was going ahead despite calls from some members for it to be delayed to give them more time to consider the details.

TSSA general secretary Gerry Doherty said: "We think 60% is better than the 100% that Iain Coucher (former chief executive) used to award himself every year but is still far too generous for running what is in effect a public utility largely funded by the taxpayer.

"David Higgins is doing a far better job than Iain Coucher but does he really need an extra bonus of over £300,000 to do the job any better?

"I don't think that the travelling public, who pay the highest fares in Europe, would agree with bonuses at this high level."

Under company rules at the not-for-profit firm, the 100 public members, who act effectively as shareholders, have to approve the scheme which will operate until 2014.

Mr Doherty was removed as a public member in 2009, he believes for consistently questioning the level of bonuses paid to NR directors.

A Network Rail spokesman said: "Network Rail plays a pivotal role in running Europe's most intensively-used rail network, with the responsibility of moving almost four million people safely every day.

"It is a hugely complex business, investing billions each year on improvements, and helping the UK economy to continue its recovery. Having an executive incentive scheme is essential to ensure that the company can attract and retain top talent.

"The company has this year cancelled directors' bonuses and suspended its executive incentive scheme while it undergoes a thorough review.

"A new scheme is being proposed that will slash the potential annual award by 40%, have tough targets independently assessed by our regulator, and will only reward clear, unequivocal success and out-performance."

NR said it was false to claim that Mr Doherty was removed as a member, claiming that he simply did not re-apply for membership.