THE taxpayer faces baring the brunt of ScotRail delays compensation which has soared by 70% in a year, it has emerged.

The managers of Scotland's railways have been criticised after new figures showed that the ScotRail was forced to to pay £1,119,818 in compensation, in 2018/19, up 72.8% from £647,670 in 2017/18.

Publicly owned Network Rail, which is responsible for Scotland's railway infrastructure, is expected to compensate ScotRail for issues they were responsible for.

It is understood that more than half of ScotRail's worst end of year punctuality performance for a decade last year were actually issues that were the responsibility of Network Rail.

But ScotRail, run by Dutch train operator Abellio, has been at the centre of pressure over the level of disruption caused for months after they put in a new winter timetable in December.

The issues caused by staff being trained how to operate new trains saw an average of 46 services a day axed towards the end of 2018 and a string of delayed services, overcrowded trains as carriages were cut and skip-stopping.

On top of the delay repays, in January, ScotRail offered free train travel to certain customers as they again apologised for "unacceptable service" in parts of Scotland.

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The train company offered free travel anywhere in Scotland to season ticket holders on the 'worst affected routes' for six weekends over March, April and May.

The train operator said its new electric and high-speed trains including the environmentally friendly Hitachi Class 385 stock would allow shorter journey times, more seats and more services on updated routes to build "the best railway Scotland has ever had".

But passengers bombarded ScotRail with complaints since the timetable launched, with ScotRail saying the problems were partly caused by the late arrival of the new Hitachi Class 385 and high-speed InterCity trains.

The figures were produced following a parliamentary question, but the Scottish Government were unable to provide any details about how many customers entitled to compensation through the Delay Repay Scheme, failed to make a successful claim.

The revelations came as consumer organisation Which? criticised ScotRail for its "Byzantine" compensation scheme for delayed passengers, after research revealed the process is among the UK's most complicated with a demand for 24 separate details before a claim can be submitted.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of consumer watchdog Transport Focus said: "In an ideal world, there would be no compensaiton paid out, because the trains would be on time. This cranks up the pressure on the industry to deliver the most basic thing that rail passengers are looking for, which is make trains reliable."

Passengers can apply for compensation if their journey is delayed by 30 minutes or more and if they miss a connection because of a delay on a ScotRail train.

Mr Smith added: "It is good to see that passengers are making their voices heard and claiming compensation, when they have had not been delivered what has been promised. It is now up to ScotRail to make the process easier so that more people can claim."

The new figures emerged following a parliamentary question by Mike Rumbles, the Scottish Liberal Democrats MSP for North East Scotland who said: “It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that, after the worst performance record for over a decade, ScotRail was forced to pay out over £1 million in compensation last year. That is a huge increase on previous years.

“It is clear that the system is set up to deter people from claiming the money they are owed. I have no doubt that there will be thousands of passengers who have been left out-of-pocket but didn’t bother to claim after having their service delayed or cancelled.

“After years of trying to blame others for the problems in ScotRail, the First Minister has finally admitted that the service is not good enough.

“The priority should be to remove the franchise from Abellio at the first opportunity and to find an operator that can deliver services on time and without cramming passengers onto overcrowded trains.”

A ScotRail spokesman said: "We are absolutely committed to providing the best possible service for our customers and our Delay Repay Guarantee is at the heart of that approach.

"We know how much of an inconvenience it is to customers when things don't go to plan, and it is only right that they are compensated when that happens.

"The Delay Repay system is easy to use and we regularly remind our customers to claim for compensation if their journey is delayed by 30 minutes or more."

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: "It is only right that passengers are compensated when their rail journey is delayed.

"As part of the franchise agreement, we secured a clear and straightforward Delay Repay process whereby passengers can claim compensation in the event that their service is subject to any delay lasting over 30 minutes.

"However, calls to rip-up the current contract now are short-sighted, not least in the expense this would bring to tax-payers and the disruptive impact it would have on passengers and staff alike without resolving the underlying problems that currently impact performance."