Five suspended over rail fraud

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The Independent Online

Transport Correspondent

Four more managers on the London, Tilbury and Southend railway were yesterday suspended by British Rail as a result of the fraud inquiry into misuse of tickets. An employee at another BR subsidiary was also suspended, following the discovery of a similar fraud.

The four, all members of LTS's commercial department, who work at the Southend headquarters and at Fenchurch Street, were "suspended temporarily" in order to allow them to "co-operate fully with the investigation", according to a statement issued last night.

Last Saturday, Colin Andrews, the commercial director of the management buyout team - Enterprise Rail, which had been about to take over the line - resigned after details of the ticketing fraud emerged. On Monday, Ian Burton, the retail manager, was suspended.

Enterprise Rail's City backers are becoming increasingly concerned at the embarrassing publicity. A source close to the venture capital firm 3i, backing the bid, said: "3i wants to be involved in other management buyout bids for rail franchises and therefore does not want to be tarnished by any dirt coming out of the investigation."

The letting of the franchise was halted by Sir George Young, the Secretary of State for Transport, after it was discovered that managers at the company had moved tickets from one station to another, in order to boost the share of LTS's income from Travelcard sales, which have to be shared with London Transport.

As a result of BR checks, a ticket clerk at West Anglia Great Northern has also been suspended. It is understood that only about 30 tickets and a very small sum of money were involved.

Two investigations, by BR and the Rail Regulator, are being carried out into the fraud.