AN ELUSIVE Malaysian businessman who has owned Ayr’s Station Hotel for the best part of a decade is being pursued by Network Rail for the costs it incurred when the adjoining railway station had to be partially closed last year.

Eng Haut Ung has owned the 133-year-old, 75-bedroom hotel next to Ayr Railway Station since 2010, but stopped operating it as a going concern in 2013.

Since then the condition of the building has deteriorated to such a degree that South Ayrshire Council issued a Dangerous Buildings Notice to Mr Ung in March last year before setting up an exclusion zone around the hotel in the summer.

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Following further inspection the exclusion zone was extended in August, with the local authority’s chief executive Eileen Howat saying at the time that crumbling and exposed sections of roof presented “a significant and immediate danger to people and places around the station”.

As a result the station’s travel centre and concourse were closed, requiring a temporary ticket office and entrance to be established at the north end of the station, while a number of platforms had to be blocked off and longer trains were barred from using the station altogether. Serious disruption was caused to passenger services between Glasgow Central, Ayr, Girvan, Stranraer and Kilmarnock until the hotel was fully contained in December.

Despite being able to get the rail services working again, taxpayer-owned Network Rail, which owns the track and station, had to pay a significant sum to Abellio Scotrail, which manages the station and operates some of the trains that use it, to compensate it for the disruption caused.

It also incurred various costs associated with having the hotel scaffolded and encapsulated, modifying the rail infrastructure near the building and compensating various train and freight operators for the loss of use of the railway lines in the affected area.

In a bid to recover those costs, Network Rail is pursuing Mr Ung in a Court of Session action, which is being led on its behalf by the law firm Dentons.

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A Network Rail spokesman declined to say how much money the organisation is seeking to recover, but it is understood to be several hundred thousand pounds.

“It would not be appropriate for us to discuss this matter in detail while legal proceedings are ongoing,” the spokesman added.

South Ayrshire Council, which met most of the cost of establishing the exclusion zone around the hotel, is expected to raise an action against Mr Ung in due course.

Mr Ung, who, according to filings at Companies House, is linked to three addresses in London, was not contactable for comment.

It is understood that he has been an elusive figure throughout all the problems with the hotel, communicating with the other parties through representatives.

According to Companies House he co-owns the hotel via a holding company that is 50% owned by fellow Malaysian businessman Salahudin Yaakob. Both are listed as being contactable at a property in the Bayswater area of London.

Mr Ung is also listed as having a controlling interest in DSS Global Investments, a company incorporated in September last year for the purposes of “buying and selling of own real estate”. That business, which has yet to file any documents, is registered to a residential property in the Fitzrovia area of London.

While it is unclear what Mr Ung and Mr Yaakob intend to do with Ayr Station Hotel, it is possible that the local authority, which is awaiting the results of a full structural report, could order it to be demolished. That report was expected to be delivered this week.

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In the meantime, with station staff continuing to have to work from portable cabins, Transport Scotland indicated last week that it is supportive of the construction of a new railway station in the town.

“There is clearly an urgent need to build adequate station facilities at Ayr station, one of ScotRail’s busiest,” a spokesman said.

Noting that a range of options for the station are being considered, South Ayrshire Council leader Douglas Campbell said last week that the current situation with the hotel has created an “opportunity to have a modern railway facility in Ayr”.