The fat-cat controller

Original source: Rail workers heaped scathing criticism on their 'Fat Controller' bosses on Wednesday for plotting to award each other hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' cash in bonuses.

Network Rail executives were revealed to be preparing the lavish handouts in a leaked letter from the chairman of the company's renumeration committee.

He claimed that the government's rail watchdog had raised 'no objections' to the state-funded firm making the payouts.

Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher stands to pocket a colossal £600,000 'incentive payment' - worth more than his entire year's salary of £583,000 - under the plans, while director Peter Henderson will rake in £219,000 on top of his £399,000 wages.

Other wealthy managers will get handouts of up to £400,000, despite the firm being deluged by criticism from rail unions and passengers for the state of the network.

Network Rail, which was taken back into effective public ownership in 2002 after privatisation proved a failure, maintains Britain's track, signals and stations.

Rail workers' union RMT leader Bob Crow accused Network Rail executives of 'presiding over a massive and dangerous squeeze on track work and a lowering of standards' despite receiving a £3 billion grant from the taxpayer each year.

'What crazy system is it that contemplates rewarding bosses for this?' he stormed.

'There should be no question of bonuses for bosses when the people out there trying to do the work are being stretched to breaking point, there are cuts in frequency of track inspections and cuts in routine signals maintenance.

'It beggars belief that NR should be allowed to even contemplate paying these bonuses,' Mr Crow insisted.

A Network Rail spokesman bizarrely tried to counter the criticism by claiming that the leaked letter was 'not about bonuses but all about proposed changes to next year's management incentives.'

But white-collar rail union TSSA general secretary Gerry Doherty challenged the company to explain the difference.

'Mr Coucher and the Fat Controller have one thing in common - neither of them are living in the real world,' he asserted.

Mr Doherty denounced the directors for their 'unjustified, gigantic bonuses' and demanded that Prime Minister Gordon Brown intervene to call them to account.

He pointed out that Network Rail is 'wholly funded by the taxpayer.

'It is a farce to talk about profits and financial added value at such a company - NR maintains our tracks and signalling on behalf of the taxpayer and no-one else,' said Mr Doherty.

'Mr Coucher already earns three times more than the Prime Minister. He should not need to earn huge bonuses on top of that for running a public monopoly.'

The TSSA leader insisted: 'If the Prime Minister can stop bonuses at banks that we partly own, he should certainly do something about a company which we wholly own. It is time to stop this gravy train.'