Go-Ahead chiefs amass £3.5m while victims wait

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The Independent Online

The two top executives of Go-Ahead, one of the train operators involved in the Paddington rail crash, have amassed pension pots worth a total of £3.5m even though scores of passengers injured in the disaster are still waiting for compensation.

Martin Ballinger, chief executive of Go-Ahead, and Chris Moyes, its deputy chief executive, have pension pots worth £1.9m and £1.4m respectively, according to the company's latest report and accounts published yesterday. By contrast, the 78 passengers injured in the crash four years ago, which killed 31 people, are still waiting for their £30m compensation pay-out because of legal wrangling between lawyers involved in the case.

Go-Ahead is the owner of Thames Trains, one of whose drivers caused the disaster after he jumped a red light and collided head-on with an oncoming Great Western express owned by First Group. Mr Ballinger accused the media of being "stupid" and working up a frenzy after the crash and has insisted that Thames Trains would escape prosecution.

Apart from his increased pension entitlement, Mr Ballinger also saw his pay package rise from £348,000 to £361,000, including a £57,000 bonus. In addition, Mr Ballinger, who still owns a 7 per cent stake in Go-Ahead, is set to collect £900,000 before tax in dividend payments.

Go-Ahead's other rail franchise, Thameslink, has been one of the worst-performing commuter lines in the country. Despite this, Go-Ahead increased its dividend to shareholders by 47 per cent this year to 25p a share. The huge rise in the dividend helps explain why Go-Ahead shares have performed so strongly this year, rising from 550p to 960p, valuing the company at £500m.

Mr Ballinger, Mr Moyes and a group of other senior managers paid just £3m for Go-Ahead when they bought out the business from the then state-owned National Bus Company in 1987. The company floated in 1994 and two years later it cashed in on the privatisation of British Rail by buying its two train franchises. Two years ago, Go-Ahead was awarded a third rail franchise when the French-owned group Connex was kicked off the South Central line.

Mr Ballinger lives in a £1m Georgian country pile in Northumbria close to Go-Ahead's Newcastle-upon-Tyne headquarters and flies his own twin-engined Piper Chieftain plane to meetings in London. His deputy, Mr Moyes, has a much more modest lifestyle, often travelling by the number 7 bus when he visits the headquarters of Go-Ahead's bus division in Brighton.