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Union presses Network Rail over perks claims

Network Rail was this week in discussions with rail union representatives over who should chair an inquiry into allegations that it misused public funds.

Talks between the company’s chairman Rick Haythornthwaite and Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) general secretary Gerry Doherty have halted over whether the inquiry should be chaired by a barrister.

The TSSA called for an inquiry into pay and bonuses at Network Rail after satirical magazine Private Eye printed allegations about perks for senior staff.

A Network Rail spokesman said that the company had already investigated the allegations in an internal inquiry which found them to be baseless.

He added that this “had not satisfied” the trade union.

“We want to get to the bottom of this and we want to see the TSSA’s evidence, so we are looking at ways to do that. We are hopeful we will get a resolution that both parties can be satisfied with, but we are not there yet,” he said.

The union insists that a barrister should chair the inquiry for the sake of transparency.

Network Rail shareholder and Rail Freight Group chairman Tony Berkeley said he understood that negotiations about the format of the inquiry were at an “impasse”.

“My latest information is that [negotiations are] basically stuck”, he told NCE. He added that at a recent meeting of the All Party Rail Group, of which he is a member, transport secretary Philip Hammond said that a two-part inquiry by a barrister was close to being agreed. However, Berkeley said that Network Rail had subsequently denied this.

Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber is chairing the negotiations.

A Department for Transport spokesman said that Hammond wanted the issue to be resolved, but added that the terms of an inquiry were a matter for Network Rail and the union.

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