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.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker