South West rail passengers travel on the oldest trains and experience the worst disabled access in the country, according to a new report.
The region also came second from bottom of a league table measuring station quality, the comparative study by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) shows.
The group said there are now “huge disparities” in the quality of train services in different parts of Britain and blamed the Government for strategic failures.
The six-county region, where First Great Western, Cross Country and South West Trains all operate mainline services, came seventh out of 11 regions overall.
First Great Western admitted there was still work to do to provide step-free access to 111 of its 208 stations but said funding applications had been made to improve 53.
However, the company said it needed to prioritise efforts to upgrade an infrastructure which dates back 160 years.
Andy Allen, a spokesman for the campaign, said its report was critical of Whitehall rather than operators, many of whom are successfully fulfilling their franchise obligations and receiving high levels of customer satisfaction in surveys. However, he said the Government faced a 2017 deadline for compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act.
“It is a significant problem and Government faces legal action if it doesn’t improve,” he added.
Credo in association with the CBT, carried out the Effectiveness of the Rail Network Across Great Britain.
It found that services are best in London, south east England, north west England, the West Midlands and Scotland.
Welsh, east of England and north east England rail services perform much less well, with the South West rated seventh of the 11 regions.
A breakdown of the rankings showed the region fared better in other areas, such as future plans (second) and crowding (third). The CBT said it used figures from the Officer of the Rail Regulator (ORR) to determine the average age of trains running on the networks.
ORR figures show the average age of trains leased from the Government by First Great Western is 30 years old, while for South West trains the figure is 16 and for Cross Country the average age is 14 years old.
CBT chief executive Stephen Joseph said: “The research exposes the huge disparities in the quality of train services across the country.
“Importantly, it suggests the answer is to give local administrations more control over their rail networks. By devolving more decision-making we can make full use of local knowledge and target investment where it will bring the biggest benefits.”
First Great Western said the Government had announced last year over £14 billion investment in the Great Western network, including the electrification of the GW mainline, and in new Intercity Express trains, replacing FGW current fleet of High Speed Trains, beginning roll-out from June 2017.
A spokesman said the latest National Passenger Survey showed a positive step change in the upkeep and repair of stations, their cleanliness and in the facilities provided, and in the provision of information about train times and platforms.
“This follows investment during the last franchise (2006 to 2013) of over £85 million, by working with rail industry partners, the Department for Transport, and local authorities,” he added.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said its Access for All programme will deliver step free access at over 150 South West stations by 2015, with 105 already completed.
“In addition, we have announced a further £100m to extend the programme from 2015 to 2019.
“The selection criteria for this programme is the same across the entire UK and we will continue to work hard with the rail industry to make sure improvements are made where they are needed most.”