Road bosses' six-figure salaries rise by 50%

Rewarded for failure? Road bosses’ six-figure salaries rise by 50% despite smart motorways scandal

  • Road bosses at centre of smart motorway scandal accused of being ‘rewarded for failure’
  • Data shows the number of road bosses on six-figure salaries rose by 50 per cent
  • 86 National Highways bosses raked in the levels of pay, up from 57 in 2018 

Road bosses at the centre of the smart motorways scandal were last night accused of being ‘rewarded for failure’ as it emerged the number on six-figure salaries has risen by 50 per cent.

Data obtained by the Mail show 86 National Highways executives were raking in such levels of pay this year – up from 57 in 2018.

The figure at the government-funded, but privately-owned, authority was 72 last year.

The eye-watering sums come despite a pay freeze for many public sector workers.

Road bosses at the centre of the smart motorways scandal were last night accused of being ‘rewarded for failure’ as it emerged the number on six-figure salaries has risen by 50 per cent (stock image)

And the revelation follows the Mail’s searing undercover investigation into safety at smart motorways. The rise was blasted by MPs and relatives of drivers killed on smart motorways.

Karl McCartney, a Tory MP who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘The organisation’s performance in recent years across various issues, not least the misnomered “smart motorways”, does not warrant such sharp increases in pay.’ Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason was killed on the M1 two years ago, said: ‘They are being rewarded for failure. Smart motorways are killing people. It’s outrageous.’

Sally Jacobs, 83, whose husband Derek, also 83, was killed on the M1 in 2019, added: ‘They are profiting from death. I can’t believe they could be so blatant about handing themselves these kinds of sums, and yet they’re rolling out more and more miles of smart motorways which are killing people.’

A reporter working at the South Mimms Regional Control Centre for six weeks discovered more than one in ten safety cameras were broken, misted up or facing the wrong way in an audit using National Highways’ internal system. Fifty-three people have died on smart motorways – in which the hard shoulder is turned into a live lane – in the four years to 2019, with at least 18 attributed to the system.

Bosses at National Highways, which recently rebranded from Highways England, have insisted they are safer than conventional motorways, but they use figures over a five-year period. The Mail revealed in the two latest years for which there are figures that deaths on smart motorways outweigh those on conventional motorways.

Chief financial officer Vanessa Howlison (pictured) received nearly £250,000 last year, including a £20,000 bonus 

The pay figures, obtained via a Freedom of Information request, show 57 staff were receiving six-figure pay packages in July 2018. The following year it was 64, then 72 last July, and it stood at 86 this summer. According to the organisation’s most recent annual report, now a year old, former chief executive Jim O’Sullivan had an annual salary of £382,500 before he stood down in January.

He received a £75,000 bonus in 2019-20, bumping that year’s package up to £487,500 when pension contributions were included. New chief executive Nick Harris was earning £262,841 as executive director of operations. Chief financial officer Vanessa Howlison received nearly £250,000 last year, including a £20,000 bonus.

National Highways HR director Elaine Billington said: ‘To successfully manage a network this large and complex, it is essential we recruit and retain the most capable team possible with the best expertise and pay the salaries necessary in this globally competitive market.’

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