Rail engineers are earning double-time plus £775-a-day bonuses to work over Christmas and the New Year.
As millions face misery due to rail closures, the perks take some private contractors’ daily salaries to the equivalent of twice what the Prime Minister is paid.
Network Rail is spending £160 million on its ‘biggest-ever investment programme’ during the holiday season, and 32,600 in-house staff and subcontractors have been drafted in to work around the clock.
Insiders say high wages have to be offered because of a scarcity of engineers in specialist roles. But critics last night highlighted how many vital public sector staff who have to work over Christmas get nothing like the generous sums available on the railways.
Network Rail is spending £160 million on its ‘biggest-ever investment programme’ during the holiday season, and 32,600 in-house staff and subcontractors have been drafted in to work around the clock
Prison officers receive no extra pay, while most NHS staff receive just normal time plus 60 per cent. Police officers receive double time.
Network Rail’s in-house staff, normally earning between £25,000 and £60,000 a year, are being offered triple-time, or double-time and a lieu day for working Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day.
However, those arrangements are dwarfed by deals for some specialist workers. Balfour Beatty’s track geometry service staff – who operate large machines which ensure track has been safely installed – can earn double time plus £775 a shift and another day off in lieu. Double time for these workers would be the equivalent of an annual salary of about £100,000.
Network Rail’s in-house staff, normally earning between £25,000 and £60,000 a year, are being offered triple-time, or double-time and a lieu day for working Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day
The bonus is the equivalent of £201,500 a year, making a total of more than £300,000. Theresa May earns £150,000 a year.
Another contractor, Colas, is paying some specialist workers double time, a lieu day and £400 per shift, according to a document published on the RMT rail union’s website.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘These salaries and bonuses will certainly raise eyebrows, especially at time when the Government is trying to make savings. Taxpayers will wonder why rail staff are being offered above and beyond what public sector workers will receive for working on Christmas Day.’
Details of the bonuses emerged after Network Rail faced criticism for massive overspending, including the trebling of the costs for electrifying the Great Western Line – resulting in other schemes being cancelled.
Tory peer Lord Tebbit said: ‘The wages at all levels within Network Rail are part of the reason its costs spiral out of control. ‘Not-work’ Rail doesn’t work because it has no incentive to work properly and efficiently. It should be split and merged with train operating companies for each line.’
It comes as millions of passengers face disruption due to rail closures. Engineering works are hitting lines into five London stations as well as major routes, including a section of the West Coast Main Line where buses are replacing trains.
Balfour Beatty said: ‘Balfour Beatty, in line with Network Rail guidance, has implemented an additional shift allowance over the holiday period for its track geometry service staff.’ Colas Rail declined to comment.
Prison officers receive no extra pay, while most NHS staff receive just normal time plus 60 per cent. Police officers receive double time
A Network Rail spokesman said: ‘In order to deliver our vital Christmas investment programme, Network Rail offers employees enhanced pay on the bank holidays.’
The railways risk falling back to ‘the days of British Rail’ if they do not change, the Transport Secretary has warned.
Chris Grayling said rail bosses were failing to put passengers first and focusing too much on ‘processes’.
‘There has always been a danger, and it goes back to the days of British Rail, that the railways are sometimes run by people as a train set rather than as a customer service business,’ he told The Sunday Telegraph.
‘For me the railways are a customer service business and people who work in it should never forget that.’