The TSSA rail union has been pushing for months if not years to find out more about what is has described as a the “James Bond lifestyle” of Network Rail’s outgoing chief executive, Iain Coucher – who is this year receiving bonuses of £641,349 on top of a salary of £600,000.
The union has also sought to publicise unproven allegations about harassment by another director of Network Rail which have been aired in the House of Commons but denied by the quasi-public company.
Proving or disproving some of these stories is not easy, a situation made even more difficult by the bizarre way in which Network Rail is immune from freedom of information requests. Philip Hammond, transport secretary, has told me that he is considering ending this immunity – a move which would no doubt be welcomed by his junior transport minister Norman Baker, himself an foi champion while in opposition.
The latest development is that Rick Haythornthwaite, chairman of Network Rail, has written to 100 public members saying he will investigate some of the latest allegations, this time in Private Eye.
Worth pointing out that he says that some similar former claims have been disproved in the past – and that he doesn’t expect the new ones to be validated.
“Whilst the Private Eye does not always have a reputation as a document of record, the innuendo and occasional specific allegations that have been appearing over the past 18 months in it and other various publications are harmful to the company and individuals concerned. Previous internal investigations have found virtually all the issues in the past to be groundless.
That said, I will be reviewing again the findings of those investigations and looking at the only new allegations to emerge in this(latest) article, namely regarding the Coutts World Card and the Guernsey link. In the unlikely event that we do find any of the previous or the latest allegations to be valid then I assure you that the Board will take immediate and proportionate action.”