The Office of Rail Regulation said Network Rail was responsible for 1.7m minutes of delays between April and October, after infrastructure failures rose by five per cent to 16,000.
Network Rail faces fines if less than 92 per cent of the country’s trains run on time. In the period, 86.6 per cent of trains were within 10 minutes of their expected time.
“If the long distance performance does not improve the penalty could be in excess of £80m,” the ORR said.
A third of the delays caused by Network Rail were due to signalling, drainage or other non-track failures. Just under three in ten were caused by management failures, such as congestion on the lines, while a fifth were external problems such as animals on the tracks. Four per cent were caused by the weather.
Network Rail said many of its problems were due to “a largely Victorian infrastructure being pushed to its limits”.