PASSENGERS should automatically receive refunds for train delays, Scottish Labour will say today, as it publishes a new blueprint to improve the country’s railways.

ScotRail paid out more than £2000 a day in compensation for hold-ups and poor service between April and December last year, with around 40,000 people lodging complaints.

Disgruntled passengers can fill out an online claim form for a partial refund, which ScotRail says should be processed within 10 days.

A delay of between 30 and 59 minutes entitles passengers to a 50 per cent refund of a single journey or 25 per cent of a return, and a one to two hour delay means a full refund for a single trip or half a return.

Labour’s proposal is for automatic refunds to ScotRail passengers using smart cards or who buy tickets using credit or debit cards.

The change would be backed up by an advertising campaign about the other compensation methods aimed at those paying cash.

Labour said the Scottish Government should “put pressure” on ScotRail franchise holder Abellio to introduce the refund scheme as soon as possible.

The party said it would also make it a requirement if ScotRail was publicly run.

Transport spokesperson Neil Bibby MSP said: “Delayed trains are still a major problem on the ScotRail network, despite improvements in recent months.

“Passengers have always been entitled to compensation for significant delays, but many are unaware of their rights. Scottish Labour has repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to run an awareness campaign.

“Now we are demanding that automatic compensation is introduced for passengers paying by card if their train is 30 minutes or more late.

"We want a railway system that puts passengers before profits and automatic compensation for delays would do just that.”

The refund idea is part of Scottish Labour’s plan for a “radical overhaul” of the railways.

Under the blueprint, ScotRail and the Caledonian Sleeper would be brought into public ownership when the franchises expire in 2025 and 2030 respectively, there would be free wifi across the network, and legal duties to improve access for the disabled.

A spokesman for the ScotRail Alliance said: “We know how frustrating any delay can be, which is why we already offer compensation to customers who have been delayed by 30 minutes or more. There is an option for that to be paid electronically.

“It is quick and easy for customers to claim money back, particularly online.

"The most recent figures show that 94 per cent of our trains are on time, and that nine out of 10 customers are satisfied with ScotRail. The investment we are making in new and better trains will mean faster journeys, more seats and better services."

Scottish Government quango Transport Scotland said ScotRail’s existing refund system was already better than under some other franchises.

A spokeswoman said: “We welcome any measures which would make it easier for passengers to claim compensation and work with ScotRail is ongoing in this respect as part of our continuous improvement process for the franchise.”

On punctuality at ScotRail, she said performance was at its highest for two years.

“However there is no room for complacency. The ScotRail franchise contains the toughest quality regime in the UK to drive up standards with financial contributions reinvested towards enhancing customer experience, as well as 200 new services, 20,000 more seats per day and better journey times by 2018. We expect this to continue with as ScotRail maintain the actions in their Performance Improvement Plan.

“The Scottish Government will continue to deliver against the £5 billion programme committed over the five years to 2019 that will help transform Scotland’s railway and make it fit for the 21st century.”