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Minister to vote against Network Rail bonuses

Transport secretary Justine Greening to oppose executive bonuses at company’s AGM following outcry from Labour MPs

Justine Greening, the transport secretary, is to vote against bonuses for Network Rail executives at the company’s annual general meeting following an outcry from Labour MPs.

The government claimed the move would send a “very clear signal” it opposed payments like the £340,000 reportedly due to chief executive Sir David Higgins.

It is understood that this will be the first time a minister of state for transport has attended a Network Rail AGM.

Greening told BBC One’s Sunday Politics programme: “I’m going to go to the meeting next Friday. I’m going to vote against them,” she said.

She added that her hands were tied because the structure of the company – implemented by the last government – meant that she was unable to stop the bonus going through. “The governance structure that the last government set up means I can go and vote against it. The problem we have got is that won’t actually change the result.

“The other problem we have got is that the members can vote against the bonus package but, at the end of the day, their vote is only advisory,” she said.

Labour responded by claiming that Greening could have done much more to oppose the “bonus culture” in Network Rail, and said that not enough has been done to ensure that failure at the company is not rewarded.

More than 20 MPs have signed a House of Commons motion saying Network Rail had been “found by the Office of Rail Regulation to be in breach of its licence” and had been responsible for “major asset failures, congested routes and poor management of track condition”.

Labour has called on the government to use its place on the company’s board to oppose a new bonus package for the company’s bosses, arguing they are not deserved.

It is claimed that the proposed scheme would see senior managers receive up to 60% of their salary as a bonus every year, and a further 500% at the end of each five-year funding period.

Network Rail has said that “no decision” has been made on bonuses.

Last week, the company admitted health and safety breaches over the deaths of two teenagers killed at a level crossing.

Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13, were hit by a train in 2005 as they crossed the tracks at Elsenham station footpath crossing in Essex.

The firm also faces prosecution over the 2007 Grayrigg train crash in Cumbria, in which one passenger died. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds