Rail companies will be targeted directly with fines for the first time in a bid to stop them that cancelling trains and to punish them for late-running services under new government plans.
Ministers are introducing a penalty scheme to hold rail operators directly responsible and tackle companies who pass the blame - and fines - for late running trains on to Network Rail.
South West Trains will test the scheme as part of a trial in 2017, the Telegraph can reveal, and it will be rolled out to other operators if successful.
Companies will pay a fine when their services are between five and ten minutes late but will be rewarded if they beat targets for running on time under the plans.
Cancelled trains or those which run later than 30 minutes will also trigger penalties, which Ministers hope will prompt rail companies to improve services for passengers instead of passing the blame to Network Rail which operates the lines and maintains the track.
Fines are yet to be set, but the Department for Transport pointed to a recent example where London Midland was ordered to offer passengers a £7m package of compensation after a driver shortage caused callelations and delays on their services.
Rail operators are understood to routinely escape fines under the current scheme by blaming delays on taxpayer-funded Network Rail. The organisation was hit with a £52m fine in 2014 for late running services, more than double the amount paid by operators.
A compensation scheme set up to try and incentivise companies to do more about late or cancelledtrains forced them to hand over just £22m in 2013/14 and £25m in 2014/15 according to government figures.
Companies like South West Trains and Virgin East Coast paid around 30 per cent of fines levied in 2014/15, with the rest paid by Network Rail.
Fines will be based on monthly targets and will increase if performance doesn't improve in a bid to incentivise train companies to work more closely with Network Rail to improve overall service.
Under plans currently being finalised by Ministers, train companies would be ordered to either pay a fine to the government or invest the penalty in running better services or offering compensation to passengers.
Ministers are consulting on whether the operators should be allowed to appeal to get some of the fine back if Network Rail is likely to be responsible for the delays, but it is understood operators will be expected to pay something regardless of fault.
South West Trains, which will trial the new scheme, currently runs around 90 per cent of services on time, better than the 89 per cent national average.
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