Rail boss bonus anger

FRUSTRATED commuters have called on Network Rail to “get their priorities straight” after it announced pre-tax profits of £1billion and bonuses of about £200,000 for top bosses.

FRUSTRATED commuters have called on Network Rail to “get their priorities straight” after it announced pre-tax profits of £1billion and bonuses of about £200,000 for top bosses.

The announcement yesterday came on a day of misery for rail passengers in the region who endured a string of cancellations and delays caused by signalling problems.

Commuters said the profit and the money paid out in bonuses would be better spent on improving East Anglia's rail network and investing in new rail projects.

Their claims were heightened by yesterday's problems, which saw a reduced service on the mainline to London. Eleven services were cancelled from mid-afternoon to cope with the signalling restrictions at Shenfield.

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Network Rail (NR) has defended the bonus payments, which include £201,600 to chief executive John Armitt and £179,060 for his deputy Iain Coucher.

Two other top directors are also due to pocket £130,000 in bonuses after the not-for-dividend company announced a record pre-tax profit of £1bn - although its net debt rose from £18.2bn to £18.4bn.

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The bonuses were awarded despite the company accepting blame for the horrific train crash in Grayrigg, Cumbria, this year in which an 84-year-old woman died.

But, following an outcry when it emerged NR had deferred the bonuses of 119 staff in the Grayrigg area, the company said the directors' bonuses would also be deferred until the results of a full inquiry into the fatal crash were known.

Passengers groups in East Anglia said they were unimpressed with NR's performance in running the local network.

Trevor Garrod, chairman of the East Suffolk Travellers' Association, said: “There is clearly a case for investing more money in the network, rather than paying these huge bonuses.

“Network Rail managers are already very well paid and have enough perks in their jobs.”

David Bigg, chair of the Witham and Braintree Rail Users' Association, said: “My understanding is that NR is a non-profit making company, so why the hell are they making money of this magnitude when it could be properly invested in the infrastructure? They should get their priorities straight.

“I've seen no plans to increase the capacity out of Ipswich and Colchester, which is an absolute priority as demand is rising all the time.”

NR chairman Ian McAllister said: “The performance of Network Rail and of the railway network has improved further in the last year as a result of efforts by NR and the train operating companies.

“More trains are arriving on time than at any point over the past seven and a half years and costs continue to be driven downward. The rail network is also benefiting from record investment to meet the growing demands of passengers and freight users.”

A regional spokesman for NR added money was being spent on a number of local projects, including a £50m bid to renew overhead power lines between Chelmsford and London Liverpool Street.

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