UK - An independent Railway Pensions Commission has been set up by the rail unions and employers to review the current railways pensions scheme, chaired by former Pensions Commission member Jeannie Drake.

"Against a background of rising costs of pension provision, the Commission will be asked to consider if any alternative means of long term pension provision might be available that would be fair and affordable for both employees and employers," the Trades Union Congress said.

Drake, who sat on Lord Turner's Pensions Commission with Professor John Hills, is deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union.

She said: "The cost of pensions provision is rising and we need to find imaginative, affordable, equitable and sustainable solutions to maintaining long term pension provision"

Other members of the new commission will be independent actuary Bryn Davies, nominated by the rail unions and consulting actuary Peter Thompson, a consulting actuary, nominated by the employers.

The commission will gather evidence from all interested parties and aims to complete its report next summer. An interim report is expected early in 2007.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "The unions and employers in the rail industry have agreed a sensible and constructive approach to a complex problem. This is a top class team, I'm sure they will do a top class job."

On behalf of the rail industry employers, Network Rail chief executive John Armitt said: "This Commission provides a real opportunity to make progress in tackling the issues involved in providing affordable, good value pensions across the rail industry."

The UK's combined £17bn (€25bn) railway pension funds made an aggregate return of 16.3% in 2005 - almost double the previous year's 8.3%, company accounts showed.