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Punctuality levels of British railways are at a 10-year low and complaints from rail passengers are handled almost as badly as they were a decade ago, a new survey has found.

According to research from consumer group Which?, only 35% of passengers are happy with how delays are dealt with, while 46% of respondents admitted being satisfied with how their complaints are handled. A decade ago, the percentage stood at 32% and 42% respectively.

Meanwhile, over the same period, the number of people satisfied with punctuality fell by five percentage points to 72%, the lowest level in a decade.

"Our analysis highlights that the rail industry has been failing its passengers, particularly in the way they handle delays and manage complaints," said Alex Hayman, from Which?

"This just isn't good enough for the millions of people who are reliant on rail services on a daily basis."

As a result, the consumer group urged the government to introduce a rail ombudsman to better handle disputes, a proposal the Lib Dems put forward in the lead-up to last month's General Election.

Labour and the Conservatives also pledged to help rail passengers. The former criticised what it described as "increasingly unreliable and overcrowded services", while the latter promised that if elected they would introduce a passenger ombudsman to stand up for the interests of rail users.

"The government's election manifesto made strong promises to help rail passengers, who deserve much better when rail services fail to deliver," said Hayman. "That is why we need to see the powers and duties of the regulator strengthened, with the government swiftly pressing forward on its plans to introduce a rail ombudsman."

However, a spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, argued complaints were falling and firms were investing to improve services.

"We're making journeys better and we're sorry when customers don't get the service they expect," he said. "Four in five people say they are satisfied with their train journey and the long-term trend is one of falling customer complaints."