Railtrack has outraged passenger groups by awarding its new chief executive, Steve Marshall, a pay rise five times the rate of inflation.
The company confirmed yesterday that Mr Marshall's annual salary will rise from this month by £50,000 to £450,000 – an increase of 12.5 per cent.
Astonishment greeted the move, which follows an embarrassing row last month over the £1m "golden goodbye" given to the company's former chief executive Gerald Corbett and the revelation of bumper share options for directors. Carol Bell, co-chairman of Safe Trains Action Group, said: "I am stunned and very angry about this. This has added insult to injury again."
Ms Bell, who was hurt in the 1997 Southall crash, continued: "He's getting more than Gerald Corbett? It's a nice job if you can get it. This is absolutely disgusting – it is really obscene."
Railtrack has become a target of public derision in recent months, taking flak from customers, the rail regulator, the Government and from the City, earning it a reputation as one of Britain's least loved companies.
The company was ejected from the FTSE 100 index of leading shares last month after a slump in the value of its shares.
Mr Marshall, who joined Railtrack 18 months ago as financial director earning £300,000 a year, was appointed chief executive last November. He replaced Mr Corbett who resigned after the Hatfield rail crash, which was blamed on inadequate track maintenance.
Mr Marshall went on to Mr Corbett's old salary of £400,000, which the company said had been uprated after a pay review.
Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, said: "First former chief executive Gerald Corbett gets a £1.3m golden goodbye for failure; then Railtrack's directors get a huge share option payout for failure; now Steve Marshall, the new boss, gets an inflation-busting pay rise. For what?
"Railtrack prides itself on being a private sector company but it is taxpayers who are paying for these massive bonuses. Taxpayers should not be used for rewarding failure but for improving rail services."
The latest pay row has exposed Railtrack to charges of further managerial blundering. Only a fortnight ago, its masterplan for maintaining the rail network was denounced as "profoundly unsatisfactory" by Tom Winsor, the rail regular. Train operators described Railtrack's plans to end the train network's problems as "glib, a waste of time, vague and with too many fine words but with little substance".
The long-awaited report by Lord Cullen into the Paddington crash in October 1999 laid much of the blame for the fatal crash on Railtrack, accusing it of "institutional paralysis".
Phil Wilks, external relations manager for the Rail Passengers' Council, said the latest pay rise could have been better timed.
"If they want to have high calibre staff they have got to pay the going rate, although passengers may query the timing of the rise at the moment as insensitive in the light of recent events," he said.Reuse content