According to a report published today by the consumer group, Which?, 8.1m passenger journeys were affected by significant delays, causing rail commuters to waste 3.9m hours during 2018.
A train is classed as being significantly late if it is delayed by at least 29 minutes, and about 80 services per day fell into this category last year, with a further 660 cancelled.
It was the highest figure for cancellations since comparable records began in 2011.
The research – based on analysis of Office of Rail and Road data – was published on the first working day since new train timetables were introduced. Travellers are being urged to check departure times as rail firms across Britain roll out their summer timetables to enable the introduction of 1,000 extra services per week.
Reliability in 2018 was plagued by a number of problems in addition to the timetable changes, including extreme weather, strikes and signalling failures.
Transpennine Express and Govia Thameslink Railway accounted for the highest cancellation rates as a proportion of their total services, at 10 per cent and seven per cent respectively, out of 13 franchises analysed by Which?.
Meanwhile, a separate analysis shows that full or part-cancellations by Northern resulted in the firm’s trains not calling at more than a quarter of a million scheduled stops in the past 12 months.
Data recorded by the Northern Fail App – launched by a frustrated commuter at the height of last year’s timetable chaos – shows a train failed to stop at a station as scheduled on 258,266 occasions from May 2018 to May 2019.
Robert Nisbet, the regional director of the industry body, the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We know that services on some routes weren’t good enough last year and rail companies are working together to improve punctuality and tackle delays across the country.
“Train companies want to make it simple and easy for customers to claim compensation if they’ve experienced a delay. Half of the franchises managed by the Department for Transport pay compensation after 15 minutes and some operators have introduced automatic refunds, helping claims to increase by 80 per cent over the last two years.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said that the Williams Rail Review, which began last September, would “put passengers at the heart,” of services.
Britain’s Train companies must have a “robust contingency plan” in case a new timetable leads to a repeat of last year’s rail chaos, public transport campaigners have warned.
The change was rolled out yesterday and is one of two major timetable overhauls which take place each year.
Darren Shirley, the chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The railway has a long way to go to win back passenger confidence...
“In the event that things do go wrong, we would expect the rail industry to have a robust contingency plan so that passengers aren’t left stranded again.”