Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne has been given a CBE, despite a terrible year for train users across much of the country.
The honour, announced late on Friday, comes after the cancellation of 165 trains every day by Northern Rail until the end of July, including services in Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool and the Lake District.
Earlier in the year train users saw the biggest rise in fares since 2013 and a number of train operators, including Southern, South Western and CrossCountry, have been affected by strikes.
During his four years at the helm, there has been criticism of the number of operators missing punctuality targets, poor management and delays to modernisation schedules.
He is due to retire this summer.
News of the honour bestowed on Mr Carne was met with anger from MPs, including Lisa Nandy (Labour MP for Wigan) and Tim Farron (Lib Dem MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale).
Ms Nandy said the news was a “total disgrace”.
She added: “It makes a complete mockery of the government’s commitment to hold accountable those responsible for the misery on our railways.”
Image: Northern Rail passengers have been affected by delays and cancellations
Mr Farron said: “Ask anyone who’s tried to commute to work on a train recently and they’ll tell you rail bosses need a kick up the bottom not a pat on the back.”
Other Twitter users were also incensed, describing the honour as “a kick in the teeth for rail users everywhere”.
One wrote: “I’m looking forward to being offered a damehood for enduring the services currently being offered by the rail industry”, while another added: “Hope he set off for the palace a week ago if he wants to get there on time”.
In a statement tweeted just minutes after the Queen’s Birthday Honours List was published, Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy defended his colleague.
He said: “Clearly the timing of this award is difficult given current industry issues and their effects on passengers but we should take a step back and look at Mark’s whole career and particularly his record over the past four-and-a-half years and recognise, as this award does, his tremendous contribution to our railway.”
He praised Mr Carne’s transitioning of Network Rail into public ownership, delivering the “largest investment programme in modern times” and making a “21st century digital railway a reality”.
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Mr Hendy added: “It’s right he is honoured just before he retires from one of the biggest and most challenging jobs in UK industry and alongside everyone at Network Rail, I congratulate him.”
A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: “While the timing of this announcement is clearly unfortunate given current timetabling issues, that should not detract from the service Mr Carne has performed at the head of one of the country’s most important public bodies, nor from his work in improving safety and modernising our rail network.”