Railtrack pins its hopes on pounds 100,000 spin doctor

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The Independent Online
RAILTRACK has hired a "spin doctor" from Saatchi & Saatchi on pounds 100,000-plus a year to rescue the rail industry's reputation in the run- up to privatisation.

Philip Dewhurst, managing director of the top advertising firm's Westminster lobbying arm, Rowland Salingbury Casey, is to join the rail-infrastructure company as board member responsible for public and government affairs.

Railtrack hopes that enlisting the aid of the advertising gurus (recently renamed Cordiant), whose campaigns are credited with winning the Conservatives several general elections, will revive its rock-bottom reputation.

Mr Dewhurst's appointment will be announced tomorrow as the inquiry into the fatal Maidenhead rail blaze gets under way.

Railtrack already has a pounds 50,000-a-year head of public affairs: Lesley Smith, a former Labour Party press officer. She is currently on sabbatical in the US, doing a degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A company spokeswoman said Ms Smith is still on the staff and will return.

The rail firm's lowest-paid board member last year earned pounds 90,000, plus a pounds 25,000 bonus, and industry sources said it was safe to assume that Mr Dewhurst would enjoy similar terms and conditions.

Henry McLeish, Labour's railways spokesman, said: "Saatchi & Saatchi have managed to get the Conservatives re-elected four times, but it would be a miracle if their man can save Railtrack's privatisation.

"It will take more than the appointment of a slick adman to persuade prospective buyers and the British people that selling off the railway industry is a good idea."