Politicians and passenger groups have reacted angrily after the outgoing boss of Network Rail was appointed a CBE amid continued rail disruption.
Mark Carne was included in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to the railway industry. MP Tim Farron called it a “slap in the face” while one trade union leader said it was like “rewarding the captain of the Titanic for jumping ship”.
Network Rail admitted the “timing is difficult” given the current issues. Passengers have faced delays and cancellations since a major overhaul of rail timetables took effect on 20 May.
Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, has laid some of the blame for recent disruption at Network Rail’s door, saying the organisation had been “very late” in approving the new timetables.
The chairman of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy, said Mr Carne had made a “tremendous contribution” to the UK’s railways over his four-and-a-half years in the role.
Since he was appointed chief executive in January 2014, Mr Carne, a former oil executive, has overseen a large investment programme, including the rebuilding of London Bridge and Birmingham New Street stations and the upgrading of signalling systems, as well as the Crossrail and Thameslink projects.
He announced in February he would leave Network Rail later this year.
Emily Yates, of the Association of British Commuters, called the award a “pantomime”, adding it is “a sign that the rail industry is really out of touch with the real pain and suffering that people are going through”.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said: “Frustrated passengers will see no honour in that at all.”
Labour’s Lisa Nandy told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight his CBE agreed that “just another kick in the teeth” for rail travellers and should be withdrawn.
She said “there’s absolutely no way that the government should press ahead with this award”.
Meanwhile, Lilian Greenwood, the Labour chair of Parliament’s Transport Select Committee, said rail users would be “incredulous”.
“Passengers will be furious. Their trains aren’t arriving on time, if they arrive at all, but this reward for the top boss turns up even before he’s left his post,” she said.
She said the committee had launched an inquiry to establish who was responsible for the “shambolic” timetable changes but in the meantime “this announcement will add insult to passengers’ injury”.
Ms Greenwood added Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and train operating companies may be “quite glad for somebody else to be in the spotlight”.
Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said Mr Carne’s CBE was a “slap in the face to millions of travellers up and down the country” and said he should have turned it down. He told BBC Breakfast: “This is a moment when our rail leaders do not need pats on the back, they need a kick up the backside.”