Network Rail is proposing to pay its executives more than £2m in bonuses this year – a move which attracted opprobrium from the Government and trade unions alike yesterday.
The quasi-independent railway infrastructure company wants to pay its six senior directors more than £1.34m in bonuses, plus £906,000 under an incentive scheme. The chief executive Iain Coucher, who announced his resignation last week, will receive a £348,000 bonus and an extra £293,000 from the incentive programme. He waived his bonus last year but took home an incentive payment of about £150,000.
The payouts are in defiance of the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond's call for restraint on executive bonuses. Yesterday, Mr Hammond expressed "disappointment" at the scale of Network Rail's largesse. "In a week when everyone has been asked to share the burden of reducing Britain's deficit, people will rightly be asking how Network Rail's top executives feel this is appropriate," he said.
The bonus plans attracted similar anger from Bob Crow, the general secretary of the RMT union, which is fighting Network Rail over proposals to cut jobs. "While hundreds of rail workers face the prospect of being thrown on the dole, it is a national scandal that Iain Coucher is walking out with a golden handshake bonus of nearly two-thirds of a million pounds," Mr Crow said. But Network Rail defended the remuneration strategy, claiming that Britain's railways were safer and more punctual than ever before. Not only did the company's licence require an incentive programme for managers, but the final payments were being fixed at 20 per cent lower than the maximum allowed, the company added.
"Network Rail only rewards for success, measured against what matters most to passengers: a better railway with more trains on time," said the chairman, Rick Haythornthwaite. "On that basis, awards for the past year have been earned, are a contractual right and should be paid."
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