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Delays spark rail chief bonus row

Network Rail's (NR) failure to complete Christmas engineering work on time looks like costing the company's chief executive Mark Carne most of his annual performance-related bonus.

But Mr Carne could still get a bonus of nearly £34,000 following the over-running work that led to chaotic scenes at a closed King's Cross station in London on Saturday.

Given a good performance by NR Mr Carne could get a bonus of up to 20% of his annual salary of £675,000 which would amount to a bonus of £135,000.

But interviewed on BBC Radio 4's World At One programme today, Mr Carne said that at the moment the maximum he was likely to get would be 5% of his annual salary which would give him £33,750.

Apologising again for the engineering over-run, he said NR's performance had fallen short. He said he had set up an internal review of the weekend problems and was also urging a wider, industry review of the timing of big engineering works.

He said there was a possibility that it could be decided that work should not be done over Christmas and Easter but at other times.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "I welcome Mark Carne's assurances that he and NR will be learning the lessons from the totally unacceptable delays suffered by passengers over the weekend.

"This mustn't just be warm words, however. Passengers deserve real action and I will be holding NR to this commitment.

"Bonuses are based on performance and, as Mark Carne has made clear, NR's performance has been found wanting and he will rightly see his bonus slashed.

"I want to see NR continue with the vital upgrade work across the network because a modern network means better, faster journeys for the millions of passengers using the network every year."

Pressed on the World at One as to whether he would take a bonus, Mr Carne said it would be a matter for NR's remuneration committee.

In an NR statement issued just before his World at One interview, Mr Carne said: "The last few days for many passengers have been miserable and again I apologise for the disruption this caused.

"The events over the Christmas period highlighted the unacceptable impact on the travelling public when plans go wrong."

Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said he had written to Mr Carne calling for bonus restraint.

Mr Dugher said: "Following the misery that passengers have faced in recent days, it is understandable that questions are being raised about the prospect of NR executives receiving large bonuses.

"The public would no doubt find it perverse and indefensible if the people responsible for the poor performance of NR and the failings we've seen in the last few days then get rewarded with bumper bonuses."

Although the King's Cross work has now been completed, there were delays to services today between King's Cross and Cambridge/King's Lynn due to overhead wire problems.

East Anglia passengers, who have endured a number of rush-hour problems in the late-autumn, early-winter period, also had to contend today with delays to trains between Ipswich and Felixstowe.

There were also hold-ups on the West Coast line that had only just returned to normal working following a part-closure over the weekend as part of the huge festive engineering programme that NR had undertaken.

The West Coast difficulty, affecting passengers travelling with four train companies, was caused by a signalling problem at Wembley in north west London.

On Friday, passengers' mid-winter misery will be compounded by the annual fare rise which will see season tickets going up by up to 2.5%.

Tony Miles, of Modern Railways magazine, said NR had been over-confident about finishing the work at King's Cross and perhaps should have gone for a longer shutdown.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's You And Yours programme, Mr Miles said: "They do seem to be cramming too much work into too little time. There may have been over-confidence about the work definitely finishing on time. Maybe they should have gone for a three-day closure rather than two-day one."

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