Politicians will now have a direct say in the level of bonuses for Network Rail bosses after changes to the company’s structure were agreed.
NR’s net debt, currently standing at about £33bn, will officially become part of the national debt from Monday,.
This will effectively mean that NR, whose debt had previously been kept off the Government’s books and which has members rather than shareholders, becomes a public-sector company.
NR’s members, who hold the company’s board to account, agreed to the structural changes which will see the Secretary of State for Transport – currently Patrick McLoughlin – having powers over the appointment of the company’s chairman, its remuneration policy and the selection of its members.
The level of NR bonuses has been a contentious issue for some time, with previous transport secretaries questioning the amounts received by the company’s executive directors at a time when rail regulators have criticised the company’s punctuality record.
NR’s remuneration committee have now restricted top bosses to an annual, performance-related bonuses of no more than 20 per cent of salary, although this could still entitle chief executive Mark Carne, on a salary of £675,000 a year, to a bonus of as much as £135,000.
Unions and campaigners will stage a protest outside NR’s headquarters on Monday. They say that the reclassification of NR should pave the way for the renationalisation of the whole of the rail network.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, said he was delighted that NR had been “brought back onto the books as a public body”.
Both Mr Whelan and Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, are opposing a decision to exclude NR from being covered by the Freedom of Information Act.