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Network Rail seeks external candidates for Coucher replacement

Network Rail is looking outside its business to fill the role of chief executive, NCE has learned.

The rail infrastructure owner and operator is now on the hunt for someone to fill the role when outgoing boss Iain Coucher leaves.

It means that senior Network Rail figures such as investment projects director Simon Kirby and operations and customer services director Robin Gisby will be unlikely to apply for the top job.

According to Network Rail, Coucher is assisting the board and chairman Rick Haythornthwaite in the search for his successor. But it is likely the company will want to find someone who can begin to forge a closer relationship with the new coalition government.

Transport secretary Philip Hammond has made little attempt to conceal his dismay at Network Rail’s since its decision last month to award large bonuses to its senior executives.

The firm’s six executive directors will receive annual incentives totalling £1.3M while Coucher will depart with £1.25M in pay and bonuses.

The government is now eagerly awaiting the findings of transport expert Sir Roy McNulty into value for money in the rail industry. In June, Hammond requested that McNulty fast-track his initial findings, so that they can feed into October’s spending review.

The transport secretary also intimated last week to MPs that the way Network Rail is structured and funded was under review.

Speaking to the Commons Transport Select Committee Hammond said that both issues were being looking at by McNulty and that key to resolve would be a review of the previous government’s decision to keep Network Rail debt off the balance sheet.

“I have the impression that the previous government will have on occasions been itching to intervene or give an opinion on what Network Rail was doing but had to restrain itself because of its concern about keeping the debt off balance sheet,” Hammond said. “I do not have any such theological focus on keeping the debt off balance sheet… We will not allow our relationship with Network Rail to be dictated by an artificial accounting convention.”   

Readers' comments (1)

  • Thank goodness we are seeing some common sense at last. Under the old Standard Staement of Accounting Practice 16 (SSAP16) leases etc. had to be stated in company accounts so that investors could obtain a true understanding of all liabilities. When PFI came into being SSAP16 was withdrawn and the practiceof "off balance sheet accounting" continued under the PPP regime of the next government. Presumably the forthcoming accounting rules from the European Union will put an end to all these "innovate" financing practices.

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