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No bonus for Network Rail chief

Network Rail (NR) chief executive Mark Carne will not be taking a bonus this year after admitting his company had "disappointed too many passengers".

But he warned rail travellers, who face fare rises of up to 2.5% on Friday, that NR was not going to be able to turn its performance around quickly following "decades of under-investment" in the railways.

Mr Carne had been under fire since late-running Christmas engineering work led to the closure of King's Cross and Paddington stations in London last Saturday amid chaotic scenes.

Mr Carne could have received as much as £135,000 in a performance-related annual pay bonus for 2014/15. But he said today he would not be taking it as NR's performance had not been good enough.

His decision was welcomed by shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher and by TSSA rail union leader Manuel Cortes.

Mr Carne, who joined NR earlier this year, said: "We have disappointed too many passengers particularly at King's Cross and Paddington in the aftermath of Christmas and for that I am sincerely sorry.

"Ultimately I am accountable for the performance of the railway, and bonuses are performance related, and I think at the moment our performance is not good enough."

He went on: "I took this job 10 months ago knowing that improving the performance of the railway was going to be a huge challenge, but it's one that I relish, one that I am really up for and I think that we've got a good plan now for how we're going to tackle it.

"It's not going to be quick though. After decades of under-investment, we should not expect that we are going to be able to turn the performance around quickly.

"We've got some huge projects to deliver and big changes to make in terms of the way we work as a company. That's what I came here to do and I'm determined to lead it and to lead it to success."

Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames had called for the sacking of NR managers.

Commenting on this today, Mr Carne said: "It's very easy to make these comments from the sidelines. But people don't come to work to do a bad job.

"Thousands of really dedicated people gave up their Christmas and Boxing Day to work on the track and to do the best job that they can. It didn't work out in all cases and I need to find out why and then we'll decide what the appropriate action should be."

The work at King's Cross and Paddington was part of a huge engineering programme that NR is undertaking during this festive period.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has described the Saturday over-run as "totally unacceptable" while the Office of Rail Regulation and NR have launched inquiries.

Other top executives at NR are also entitled to annual performance-related bonuses of up to 20% of salaries.

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: "We welcome this decision by Mark Carne but, like many of his trains, it is running late - 72 hours late in this case.

"He should have announced it on Sunday when it became clear of the level of chaos suffered by tens of thousands of passengers caught up in the King's Cross shutdown.

"We hope that his fellow executives will now follow suit and announce they will also be giving up their large bonuses as well."

Yesterday, Mr Dugher wrote to Mr Carne urging bonus restraint.

Today Mr Dugher tweeted: "Following my letter yesterday, welcome NR boss won't take bonus. But time ministers acknowledged their responsibilities for rail chaos too."

Later, Mr Dugher made public a letter he wrote to Mr McLoughlin asking for details of " what ministers did in the weeks leading up to the recent rail chaos".

Mr Dugher said th e Office of Rail Regulation published "a damning report" last month into the performance of Network Rail.

He said this should have alerted ministers to potential problems during the Christmas period, "but it seems they were asleep on the job".

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