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Rail boss receives £500k bonus despite summer of train chaos

David Brown, chief executive of Go-Ahead   Picture: Go-Ahead

David Brown, chief executive of Go-Ahead Picture: Go-Ahead

Archant

The ultimate boss of a beleaguered rail operator is set to pocket a £582,000 bonus on top of his £1m salary – despite a summer of chaos on the network.

A Great Northern train departing from Downham Market Railway Station. Picture: Ian BurtA Great Northern train departing from Downham Market Railway Station. Picture: Ian Burt

Passengers faced delays and cancelled trains when Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) brought in a new timetable.

GTR runs franchises which carry almost 30pc of passenger traffic on our railways, including Great Northern which operates services between King’s Lynn and London,

In its annual report Go-Ahead, the parent company of GTR, reported pre-tax profits of £145.7m in the year to June 2018, up from £136.8m in 2017.

Group chief executive David Brown earned £1.175m and group chief financial officer Patrick Butcher £630,000. Both received a 2.7pc pay rise from April.

King's Lynn Train Station. Picture: Ian BurtKing's Lynn Train Station. Picture: Ian Burt

Go-Ahead’s annual report also reveals Mr Brown received a £582,000 bonus on top of his salary.

A spokesman for the company said: “Due to the disruption experienced by GTR customers for the 8 weeks following the May timetable change, the executive at Go Ahead Group chose to decline 25pc of their bonus. “We are very sorry for the poor service our customers experienced during the timetable change.”

Union the RMT has earlier criticised rail operator Southern - also owned by Go-Ahead - for announcing it would remove guards from trains.

Mick Cash, its general secretary, said: “It really does defy belief that a man responsible for throwing guards off trains and reducing services to total chaos is racking up telephone number salary and bonuses. Staff will be rightly angry at this rank hypocrisy.”

Charles Horton, who resigned as CEO of GTR   Picture: GTRCharles Horton, who resigned as CEO of GTR Picture: GTR

West Norfolk councillor and frequent train traveller Andy Tyler said: “I think it’s completely inappropriate to say the least in view of the chaos and confusion there has been for passengers over the last few months.”

Network Rail drew up the timetable changes, which came into force on May 20. GTR, which operates the Thameslink and Southern franchises as well as Great Northern, said it was not given enough time to prepare for the shake-up. Days later, an amended timetable designed to “stabilise” services was published. Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “The industry has let down its passengers by failing to deliver the services offered by the new timetable.”

Charles Horton, GTR’s chief executive resigned on June 15. He said: “I recognise that passengers have been hugely frustrated at the significant disruption caused by the introduction of new timetables. It is the right time to hand the leadership of GTR to a new pair of hands.”

His replacement Patrick Verwer, former managing director of London Midland Trains, said his focus would be on meeting customers’ needs.

Two Great Northern line trains on the platform at Downham Market Railway Station. Picture: Ian BurtTwo Great Northern line trains on the platform at Downham Market Railway Station. Picture: Ian Burt

A further timetable update was introduced in July. A Great Northern spokesman said: “Reliability and punctuality have improved under the interim timetable introduced in July, with 83pc of King’s Lynn’s trains running on time and cancellations reduced by a third. On 17 days in August, only two or fewer King’s Lynn services were cancelled, and there were only four cancellations between August 29 and September 4.”

He added some services had been cancelled due to “disruptive incidents beyond our control”, including overhead power line failures.

Network Rail said an overhead line defect at Cambridge on August 17 delayed 59 trains and led to the cancellation of 43 services.

Prime Minister Theresa May called this summer’s disruption “totally unacceptable”. The government has asked transport watchdog the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to carry out an inquiry into the fiasco.

Its findings are due out later this month.

“We have looked at what led to the shambles,” an ORR spokesman said. “We have had a forensic look at what’s gone on.”

Before his departure, Mr 
Horton said GTR was not given enough time to implement the changes.

In a statement issued four days after the new timetables came into force, he said: “May’s new timetable was the biggest change to services for decades introducing 400 extra services and providing longer trains to address the doubling of passengers on our network in just 16 years.

“Delayed approval of the timetable led to an unexpected need to substantially adjust our plans and resources in an unexpectedly short time-frame.”

Have things got better on the railways? E-mail chris.bishop@archant.co.uk.

Compensation pledge

Great Northern said any passenger whose journey was delayed by more than 15 minutes would be eligible for compensation.

Its website says: “We are working really hard with the rail industry to deliver an excellent passenger service to our customers.

Since the introduction of an interim timetable on July 15, train services on Thameslink and Great Northern have been more reliable and more frequent. We are also running 200 more services than before the May timetable change.

“We know many passengers across the country were affected by the earlier disruption to rail services, including ours, following the introduction of the May timetable.

As our way of saying sorry to our customers, additional industry compensation is being offered to qualifying Thameslink and Great Northern season and non-season ticket holders most severely affected between May 20 and July 28.

Timeline of the disruption

Here is a timeline of this summer’s disruption:

May 20 GTR introduces timetable changes which will add an extra 400 trains to the network. It pledges “passengers will see huge benefits”.

May 24 GTR announces an interim timetable, saying: “While nationwide, more than eight out of 10 services have arrived as planned since the new timetable was introduced, customers in some parts of the country have experienced unacceptable levels of disruption.”

June 3 Network Rail, Northern and GTR say they are “urgently working on comprehensive plans to reduce disruption”.

June 15 GTR chief executive Charles Horton resigns. He says: “I recognise that passengers have been hugely frustrated at the significant disruption caused by the introduction of new timetables.”

July 6 GTR publishes a further amended timetable.

August 28 GTR extends compensation scheme to all passengers.

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