£350,000 'golden goodbye' predicted for railway chief

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Indy Politics

Stephen Byers, the Transport Secretary, is likely to give up to £350,000 of taxpayers' money as a "golden goodbye" to the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) chief executive.

Richard Bowker, who was appointed last week as the chairman of the authority, has told Mr Byers he wants to bring in his own people in an attempt to get a grip on the ailing rail network.

As recently as last January, Mike Grant, the current chief executive, signed a three-year contract with the Government worth £170,000 a year. If Mr Bowker presses ahead with plans to make other senior appointments, taxpayers could be landed with a bill in excess of £1m as compensation for existing employees.

Inevitably, Mr Byers – already under fire for protecting his spin doctor Jo Moore over the notorious e-mail she sent out on 11 September – will come under fresh attack for rewarding failure.

Mr Grant was appointed in 1999 as franchising director at the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising – a forerunner to the SRA. He has a degree in civil engineering and an MBA and worked as a senior executive at Eurotunnel. Mr Bowker has told ministers that Mr Grant is among a senior SRA team that has failed to produce a strategic document for the future for the industry.

* Sir Richard Wilson, the Cabinet Secretary, said the Jo Moore controversy was an isolated incident. He told a parliamentary committee: "It would be wrong to give the impression that there is wide-spread abuse of the rules. I don't think there is."