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Derail Network Rail bonus gravy train in wake of level crossing tragedies

21 January 2014

The Transport Secretary was urged today to curb six figure bonuses at taxpayer funded Network Rail in the wake of level crossing deaths caused by management failures.

The TSSA rail union has written to Patrick McLoughlin urging him to end the bonus "gravy train" following critcism of the public sector firm by the Lord Chief Justice after he rejected an appeal it mounted against a £500,000 fine imposed for causing life changing injuries to a 10-year-old boy on an unmanned level crossing in Suffolk in 2010. *
He also urged the NR public members-meeting in London today-to act on the bonus scandal in the wake of an RAIB report a fortnight ago which showed that a 30-year-old cyclist died on a level crossing in Witham, Essex last year-ten years after NR decided to build a bridge over it to make it safe but had never got around to building  it.
The union leader, in his letter, said the families of victims who have been killed on unsafe level crossings could not comprehend how NR was planning to pay three executive directors retention bonuses of £300,000 in April on top of their annual and long term bonuses, potentially worth up to 93% of their six figure salaries.**
"They simply cannot comprehend why directors will get a retention bonus of £300,000 of taxpayers money following the death of their loved ones. I can't either.
"Given this, I sincerely hope that you will use your power to eradicate this bonus gravy train as I seriously believe it would be extremely unwise to ignore the wise advice of the Lord Chief Justice."
He argued that NR executives only automatically lost their bonuses in the event of "a catastrophic" loss of life-"a far too wide a definition implying many deaths when the loss of one life is a far reaching tragedy for the families of those involved."
It meant bosses have paid themselves bonuses regardless of ten deaths on unsafe level crossings in the past decade. New rules would prevent bonuses being paid in the event of similar tragedies in the future.
The Commons Transport Select Committee is due to report next month after an inquiry into NR's level crossing failures over the past decade.
* In his ruling, Lord Thomas said bonuses should have been "very significantly reduced" after the Suffolk accident and called for future bonus curbs saying;
"The prospect of a significant reduction of a bonus will incentivise the executive directors to pay the highest attention to protecting the lives of those who are at risk from their activites."
**Three NR executives; Robin Gisby, operations; Patrick Butcher, finance; and Simon Kirby, infrastructure; are all due retention bonuses of £300,000 in April on top of their annual and long term bonuses.

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