Anger at Corbett's £1.4m payoff 'for abject failure'

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The Independent Online

Gerald Corbett, who quit as chief executive of Railtrack after the Hatfield crash in October last year, received a pay-off of almost £1.4m.

The pay-off has angered rail safety campaigners, who accused Mr Corbett of being responsible for "serial killings on Britain's railways" when the Cullen report into the 1999 Paddington disaster was published earlier this week.

Railtrack's annual report and accounts reveal that Mr Corbett received £444,000 compensation for loss of office after his resignation in November and a one-off lump sum pension payment of £912,992 before tax, or £594,141 after tax. Mr Corbett will also continue to receive a pension from Railtrack, which refused to disclose the amount.

The pay-off took the gross total received last year by Mr Corbett, including salary, to £1,625,000.

Mr Corbett is now chairman of Woolworths. He was appointed to the £400,000-a-year job in March.

Tony Knox, a survivor of the Paddington crash and a spokesman for the Safe Trains Action Group, said: "A £1.4m pay-off for abject failure seems quite stunning. I would contrast that with the £7,500 you get if your child is killed in a rail crash."

Mick Rix, general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef, described the pay-off as "obscene" and "grotesque" and called on Mr Corbett to repay it immediately. "A tiny fraction of his ill-gotten gains spent on re-siting signal 109 would have saved 31 lives," he said.

Railtrack's accounts also show that its directors decided to waive annual bonus entitlements worth up to £500,000 after what the chairman, Sir Philip Beck, described as "a difficult and challenging year for Railtrack". However, the company's new chief executive, Steve Marshall, will be eligible for a bonus equivalent to his annual salary of £400,000 if he succeeds in turning the embattled company around.

Last year Railtrack lost £534m after taking a charge of £733m to pay for the aftermath of Hatfield.

Rod Muttram, Railtrack's director of safety and standards, received a £150,000 pay-off after he quit in December to become chief executive of the newly created Railtrack subsidiary Railway Safety.