Inquiry into ex-Network Rail boss nears end

Iain Coucher is expected to be exonerated over serious financial impropriety, but could face flak

The investigation into the financial practices of Iain Coucher, the former boss of taxpayer-backed Network Rail, is expected to conclude in the next two to three weeks.

It is widely expected that Mr Coucher will be exonerated over serious financial impropriety, though he might be criticised over the human resources practices under his tenure.

Antony White, a leading QC and a colleague of Cherie Booth at Matrix Chambers, has spent months interviewing witnesses and asset tracing to prepare his report into the financial affairs of Mr Coucher.

An internal investigation by the big four accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers has already cleared Mr Coucher, who was chief executive from 2007 to 2010, of any wrongdoing. The allegations are of misuse of public money – for example, Mr Coucher and his business partner, Victoria Pender, receiving £180,000 for unspecified services to Network Rail.

He was also accused of living "a James Bond lifestyle", using his vehicle allowance to pay for the running of his Aston Martin.

A former colleague of Mr Coucher was quick to defend the criticisms of his expenses. "There's this suggestion of excess," he said. "It does not look good, but this is really a matter of tone and taste. Iain has also essentially been accused of fraud. This is serious, nasty stuff but I've been through all of the accounts and I'm very confident that he's innocent."

The HR issues include using public money to pay off aggrieved staff before they went to tribunal. There are also reported to be allegations of sexual harassment.

Network Rail, which is now headed by London 2012 Olympics builder David Higgins, could do with a positive report. Last week it was fined £3m over the Potters Bar derailment, finally drawing to a close the fallout from a crash that happened nine years ago.

Jarvis, the maintenance contractor at the time, has long been accused of being at fault for the disaster in Hertfordshire, which killed seven people. However, the now-defunct company was working to a safety regime established by Railtrack, Network Rail's predecessor body.

Jarvis was also initially charged in this court case, which was brought by the Office of Rail Regulation earlier this year. However, this charge was dropped in March as Jarvis is now in administration, so there was virtually no chance of any fine being paid out.

Former senior executives at Jarvis are known to be pleased that Network Rail has finally been sanctioned over the derailment. Many executives felt that the company had unfairly taken the brunt of the criticism over the years.

Network Rail is expected to trim parts of its maintenance budget to cover the fine. Mr Coucher did not put a provision in Network Rail's accounts to allow for any potential legal case and resulting fine.

In 2005, British Transport Police concluded that there was little chance of a successful prosecution ever being made, which was part of Mr Coucher's defence for not preparing the accounts in case of a fine. However, if Jarvis ever ended up in the dock it was always likely that Network Rail would join the company there, as it had established the safety rules.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
News
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

BA/PM,EMIR/Dodd-Frank,London,£450-650P/D

£450 - £650 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Senior Analyst - ALM Data - Banking - Halifax

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Analyst, ALM Data, Halifax, ...

Java developer - Banking - London - Up to £600/day

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Java developer - Banking - London - Up to £600/d...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star