Feb 17 2013
Train company bosses are enjoying six-figure salaries at a time when rail passengers are enduring above-inflation fare rises, according to latest figures.
Even on the East Coast line, where services are being run in the public sector, as many as eight directors are on salaries of above £100,000 a year. The East Coast pay levels were obtained following a request from the Press Association under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
All the other train operating companies were sent FOI requests asking how many of their directors were on six-figure salaries. But all said they were not obliged to reply as the act did not apply to them as they were private companies. In addition, only one company, CrossCountry, was prepared to offer any pay-level details on a non-FOI request basis.
The East Coast information supplied showed that one director - almost certainly managing director Karen Boswell - was on a salary of between £161,000 and £180,000. Two other East Coast directors' salaries came within the £121,000 to £140,000 band, while five other directors were on between £100,000 and £120,000 a year.
East Coast's parent company is Directly Operated Railways (DOR). DOR took over East Coast in November 2009 when National Express pulled out of the franchise. Information obtained from DOR via the Department for Transport showed DOR chief executive Michael Holden's salary for the year ending March 2012 was £156,100.
Information from CrossCountry covered the year 2011. It showed the highest paid director - almost certainly managing director Andy Cooper - was on £222,000 including pension contributions. The company said it had 10 registered directors and their aggregate pay, including benefits, was £795,000.
Pay level details are also available for rail infrastructure company Network Rail (NR), which is currently striving to meet punctuality targets on long-haul routes. In the last few days rail passengers have endured some miserable travelling conditions, with an overhead power line problem in Hertfordshire leading to severe delays on busy commuter routes. NR's chief executive Sir David Higgins was on an annual basic salary of £560,000 as of March 31 2012.
Transport for London's (TfL) 2011/12 annual report showed that 30 of the bosses of the cross-London £14.8 billion Crossrail project were on salaries of more than £100,000. Compared with train company boss pay levels, information is much more easily obtained for the bosses of rail-operating transport companies which are stock market-quoted. FirstGroup chief executive Tim O'Toole's basic salary for 2012 was £846,000, plus a £134,000 pension allowance and £75,000 for "benefits in kind". National Express chief executive Dean Finch is on an annual salary of £550,000 and Go-Ahead Group chief executive David Brown was on a salary of £510,000, with finance director Keith Down on £326,000.
Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: "One of the reasons we have the highest rail fares in Europe is because we have created an army of Fat Controllers since John Major sold off British Rail 20 years ago. Then we had one Fat Controller on a modest salary. Now we have dozens, some of whom are paid over £1 million a year for running regional monopolies at the expense of both the passenger and the taxpayer."
Anthony Smith, chief executive of rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "Our research shows that what is important to passengers is being able to rely on their service to get them in on time, and that their ticket is good value for money. Our national passenger survey clearly shows less than half of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of their train tickets."