The train operator responsible for commuter services across the West Midlands has been fined more than £47 million for poor performance over the past five years, the Department for Transport has revealed.
Central Trains has been forced to pay £47.5 million in "performance penalties" since 2000. The charges are a result of services being late, or cancelled.
But a spokesman for Central Trains said most delays were caused by the poor state of the railway network which is the responsibility of Network Rail, a separate company.
He said: "We actually get back most of the money we have to pay from Network Rail, because three quarters of our problems are caused by the rail infrastructure."
Last year alone, the financial year 2004/05, Central Trains was charged £11.3 million.
The firm runs services connecting stations across the West Midlands with Birmingham and each other. It covers the Black Country, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.
It also runs long distance services to Cardiff, Liverpool and Stanstead Airport near London, most of which pass through Birmingham.
Performance penalties were set up by the Government to reflect the cost to society of poor services.
Rail firms which run excellent services can receive performance bonus payments instead.
Central Trains has paid out more than any other operator over the past five years.
The West Coast Main Line, run by Virgin, has been charged £671,000 and Silverlink has been charged £ 6.3 million. However, Silverlink's service has improved so much that it received a bonus payment last year.
Chiltern Rail, which runs services between London Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill as well as some local services, paid £2.4 million. Cross Country was not subject to a performance penalty regime.
Central Trains also paid a £593,000 penalty for failing to collect ticket revenue and £18,000 local penalty for poor quality of service last year.
The figures were revealed by Transport Minister Derek Twigg, in answer to questions from senior backbench MP Gwyneth Dunwoody, chair of the transport select committee.
He said: "The franchising authority pays performance bonuses to train operators for exceeding performance targets.
"If performance is poor, operators pay a performance penalty. Payments of both types are made at four weekly intervals."
Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, said: "While there are problems with the infrastructure, that does not in itself explain what is really bad poor performance."
Phil Davis, chairman of the West Midland Transport Users' Forum, said: " Passengers have been disappointed by the service offered by Central Trains."
Coun Gary Clarke (Con Walsall Streetly), chairman of the watchdog Passenger Transport Authority, said: "Once again Central Trains' performance is bottom of the league and passengers in the West Midlands deserve better.
"The fact that you can fine a company millions of pounds every year and they continue to provide an awful service does show the limitations of the Government's penalty regime."
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced in October that the Central Trains franchise was to be extended until Autumn 2007.