Network Rail to investigate Chief Exec's pay and perks

Some remarkable accusations have been levelled at Network Rail’s outgoing Chief Executive, Iain Coucher. Just two weeks ago, I blogged on the bonuses at the taxpayer funded firm, in which Coucher picked up £641,000 on top of his already huge salary. In fact, a monumental £2.35m of public money was paid out in bonuses by Network Rail this summer, with five other Directors receiving sums in excess of £100,000.

In what could prove to be an even bigger revelation, Private Eye allege that Coucher had use of a gold card from the Queen's bankers Coutts, which allowed him to draw up to £100,000 in cash. Although we are still waiting to see those allegations substantiated, that report has rightly prompted a probe from chairman, Rick Haythornthwaite.

In an email to the 100 public members, who effectively act as Network Rail’s ruling body, Mr Haythornthwaite wrote:

"Whilst Private Eye does not always have a reputation as a document of record, the innuendo and occasional specific allegations that have been appearing over the past 18 months in it and various other publications are harmful to the reputation of the company and the individuals concerned… I will be reviewing again the findings of those investigations and looking at the only new allegations to emerge in this article."

In eight years at the company, Coucher has earned more than £7 million, a huge expense to the largely taxpayer funded and guaranteed Network Rail. Private Eye claims that managers at the firm compiled a dossier on a whole series of what it calls “extraordinary payments” made to him over the last few years.

Scrutiny of the excessive salaries, dubious bonuses and other questionable perks sometimes enjoyed by the public sector top brass is very welcome.

Jago Pearson

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