Anger as Network Rail boss gets honour amid timetable chaos

Outgoing Network Rail boss Mark Carne has been awarded a CBE
Outgoing Network Rail boss Mark Carne has been awarded a CBE
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The outgoing boss of Network Rail has been included in the Queen's Birthday Honours List amid major disruption on the railway.

Chief executive Mark Carne will be made a CBE for services to the rail industry, which has struggled to cope since the introduction of new timetables on May 20.

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A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman acknowledged that the timing of the announcement was "unfortunate" but claimed recent events "should not detract" from his service.

Last week, local newspapers across the North joined forces to demand action after weeks of misery for passengers as hundreds of services have been cancelled or delayed.
Some people reported journeys taking hours longer than expected.

Labour MP Lisa Nandy said "there's absolutely no way that the Government should press ahead with this award".

She told The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4 that the decision was "just another kick in the teeth" for rail travellers and should be withdrawn.

"It's the most astonishing thing to have happened in a week when commuters have been suffering from rail chaos", she added.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has predominantly blamed the disruption on MrCarne's Network Rail, the Government-owned company responsible for maintaining Britain's rail infrastructure.

The minister said the organisation was "very late" in approving the new timetables while a failure to complete electrification work on the Preston to Manchester line delayed the introduction of new electric trains needed to operate the services.

He later acknowledged that train operators were also "not sufficiently prepared".

Mr Carne said in a statement last week that timetables were finalised "significantly later than normal for reasons that were both within and without our control".

He continued: "It has not been good enough and we know it."

Responding to Mr Carne's inclusion in the honours list, Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy said: "Clearly the timing of this award is difficult given current industry issues and their effects on passengers, but we should take a step back and look at Mark's whole career, and particularly his record over the past four and a half years and recognise, as this award does, his tremendous contribution to our railway.

"Mark has successfully transitioned Network Rail into public ownership, delivering the largest investment programme in modern times, successfully devolving the organisation to be responsive to customers, has made a 21st century digital railway a reality, and his personal commitment to safety has made our railway the safest in Europe.

"His drive and passion have been inspirational as has his commitment to workforce diversity, dignity and equality.

"It's right he is honoured just before he retires from one of the biggest and most challenging jobs in UK industry and alongside everyone at Network Rail, I congratulate him."

A DfT spokesman said: "While the timing of this announcement is clearly unfortunate given current timetabling issues, that should not detract from the service Mr Carne has performed at the head of one of the country's most important public bodies, nor from his work in improving safety and modernising our rail network."

Mr Carne, a former Shell executive, was appointed as Network Rail's chief executive in 2014.

With a remuneration package worth £820,000 in 2016/17, his salary has been criticised by trade unions who claim it is too high considering the performance of the network.

Mr Carne announced in February that he would be stepping down from his role later this year.

He will be replaced by Civil Aviation Authority chief executive Andrew Haines.