Research by consumer group Which? estimates that rail passengers lost nearly 4 million hours to severe delays last year, equating to 448 years.

The total amount of hours – 3,928,560 – affected 8.1 million journeys in 2018, with Which? saying this means about 80 trains a day were significantly delayed, meaning they were more than 29 minutes late.

There were also a total of 241,932 cancelled trains – that’s 660 services per day, according to the data.

Which? says the figures mean 2018 was the worst ever for delays and cancellations since comparable records began in 2011.

Despite the stark rise in figures, rail passengers only claimed compensation for 34 per cent of journeys. Which? says it has written to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to demand the introduction of automatic compensation across the network.

TransPennine Express was named as having the worst cancellation rate, with 10.4 per cent of services axed, followed by Govia Thameslink Railway at 6.5 per cent. Meanwhile, London North Eastern Railway (LNER) had a delay rate of nearly 5 per cent, followed by 3 per cent on Virgin Trains West Coast.

Neena Bhati, head of campaigns at Which?, said: “Passengers have faced a torrid time on the trains since the beginning of last year where the rail industry has fundamentally failed on punctuality and reliability. People then face a messy and complex compensation system which puts them off claiming when things go wrong. A vital way the government’s rail review and industry can start to restore faith is by introducing automatic compensation for delays and cancellations so that passengers don’t have to fight to get the money they are owed.”

The data used by Which? for its research came from a year in which passengers across the country faced severe disruption following the introduction of a new timetable last May. The chaos that ensued drove the government to launch the Williams Review of the UK rail industry, which could inform changes to the way the network is run in the future.

2018 also saw the introduction of the independent Rail Ombudsman to give passengers someone to turn to in disputes over compensation and complaints.

In November, the ORR ordered Network Rail, which manages the UK’s tracks and infrastructure, to improve its performance in order to provide better punctuality for passengers.

Passengers were left with a 3.1 per cent rise in average fares at the start of 2019, which Parliament’s Transport Committee said added ‘insult to injury’.

Rail passenger satisfaction is at a ten-year low of 79 per cent.

The news comes after the rail industry introduced a new timetable over the weekend, which will add 1,000 extra services per week to the network in a bid to ease congestion on the busiest lines.

Read the full Which? report here

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