SCOTRAIL inflicted a “year of hell” on its passengers, critics claimed, after official figures showed reliability for the last 12 months was the worst since records began.

The Office for Rail and Road (ORR) data revealed ScotRail ended 2018/19 with “cancellations and significant lateness” at the highest level since 1997/98.

When Dutch-owned Abellio took over the 10-year franchise in 2015, the measure showed 2.4 per cent of services were cancelled or significantly delayed.

But by the end of the recent financial year, the cancellations and significant lateness moving annual average (CaSL MAA) was 3.7%.

Other data showed 27,172 trains were cancelled during the same period, an average of 74 trains a day.

The Herald revealed last week that the number of trains skipping scheduled stations was also starting to creep up again, with 149 misses over one recent four-week period.

Last month Nicola Sturgeon warned ScotRail it was in “the last chance saloon” after her own MSPs catalogued complaints from voters at First Minister’s Questions.

ScotRail was recently forced to sign a binding “remedial plan agreement” to correct delays around Edinburgh, and will soon undertake a second to improve customer satisfaction.

If it fails to deliver on plans agreed with ministers, it would constitute an event of default, allowing the government to terminate its contract.

An existing break clause in the contract would allow ministers to terminate the franchise in 2022 and allow a public sector body to bid for it.

Labour MSP Colin Smyth said: “It’s been a year from hell for Scotland’s rail passengers. More than 27,000 trains have been cancelled amid the worst year on record.”

Calling for the return of Scotland’s train servcies to public onwership, he said: “It is time to bring this chaos on our railways to an end so hard-pressed passengers get the service they need and deserve.”

Alex Hynes, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance, said: “We still need to improve, but I am confident the investment we are making will help us to give customers the service they expect and deserve.”

ScotRail said: “We’re running more than 2400 trains every weekday, an increase of 11% from 10 years ago, as Scotland’s railway continues to grow faster than any other in the UK. Investment in infrastructure also continues to help deliver for customers.”