Network Rail bosses set to get bonuses

RAIL OPERATOR Network Rail said yesterday it would pay its executives bonuses, despite a furore over pay in blue chip companies, and a possible licence breach at the company.<br /><br />Directors will share &pound;1m between them as the rail regulator, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), investigates claims of a licence breach on its west coast main line. There has been a series of disruptions on the line despite the completion of a &pound;9bn upgrade last year.<br /><br />The news follows an announcement last month from chief executive Iain Coucher, who waived his &pound;300,000 bonus, saying he didn&rsquo;t want it to overshadow the performance of the firm which manages the country&rsquo;s track and signals.<br /><br />But he&rsquo;s still set to pocket an extra &pound;200,000 in long-term bonus payments, in addition to his &pound;500,000 annual salary.<br /><br />The financial year at Network Rail runs to the end of March, and includes three months of disruption which affected the west coast after a new timetable was implemented.<br /><br />The firm posted pre-tax profits of &pound;1.52bn, and the best punctuality figures on the network since 1992, which Coucher said justified the payout.<br /><br />But the ORR has written to Network Rail&rsquo;s remuneration committee, saying it had to explain why the bonuses were paid, given the current financial climate.<br /><br />Network Rail said last year it expected its debt to rise to &pound;30bn by 2014 as it invests in expanding and renewing the railways. The firm, whose profits are put back into the railway, invested &pound;4bn in the network the previous year.<br /><br />Network Rail also reported a rise in its pension deficit to 33 per cent, up from 17 per cent last year, as the value of its pension fund assets fell by 25 percent to &pound;2.21bn.