A LEADING figure in a Cumbrian rail users group is optimistic that the problems faced by rail users last year will not be repeated this time.

Tony Potts of Cumbrian Coast Rail Users’ Group - which represents the interests of passengers on the Cumbrian coast line from Carlisle to Barrow - is confident the worse of the problems are behind the county.

He was speaking amid the introduction of a new summer timetable on Sunday, which promises to offer 1,000 new services to passengers.

Among other things the new timetable promises more direct services between Cumbria and Manchester Airport and more frequent services between Newcastle and Carlisle.

The Rail Delivery Group - which aims to provide leadership to the industry - says lessons have been learned since the timetabling chaos last year. At its peak hundreds of services were cancelled each day, with one of the main culprits Northern.

According to data from the Northern Fail app, more than 250,000 services failed to stop at a station as scheduled from May 2018 to May 2019. Consumer group Which? has also released its own figures, which found that four million hours were lost to significantly delayed trains in 2018.

Set up by a disgruntled rail user, the app records each Northern service that is cancelled or partially cancelled. A train is classed as being significantly late if it is delayed by at least 29 minutes.

Yesterday there were 15 fully cancelled or partially cancelled services on Northern services where either the starting station was in Cumbria or the ending destination was in Cumbria. The 2018 figures for cancellations were the highest since comparable records began in 2011.

Mr Potts commented: “We haven’t had the problems on this line that were seen elsewhere, we have actually seen improvements that have worked really well. However, in areas like ours where there is a cancelled service it can cause a lot of disruption if connections are missed.

“The main culprit was the Department for Transport, who implemented the timetable without the relevant preparations, such as the electrification schemes.”

Mr Potts added that more problems could be seen in June when Northern launches its new fleet of trains.

Robert Nisbet, regional director of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We know 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 the Rail Review is “focused on reforms to put passengers at the heart of the railway and will consider all submissions closely”.