RAIL passengers left stranded by a major power outage that disrupted services should claim compensation, a watchdog has said.

The blackout that hit England led to what travellers described as “apocalyptic” rush-hour scenes on Friday.

Network Rail said issues on the national grid led to power being lost to signalling in areas including East Sussex.

All trains were halted while back-up systems were started, a spokeswoman said.

At London’s King’s Cross station, passengers were filmed forcing their ways through the barriers in an attempt to get on to the first northbound service after services were stopped for several hours.

Large crowds of families with children, elderly people and others with disabilities were among those left waiting hours for information after all services in and out were cancelled.

The situation was labelled “absolute mayhem” with some passengers sitting or lying in the station concourse surrounded by bags and luggage, while others crowded outside.

More than 1,000 passengers appeared to be stranded at the station as main entrances were sealed off.

A freelance journalist travelling to London from Scotland was stuck on her train for more than 12 hours after it left Edinburgh.

In a series of tweets, Dayna McAlpine said her London North Eastern Railway (LNER) train was stationary for hours waiting to arrive at King’s Cross, with food running out and one passenger threatening staff.

LNER tweeted on Friday it called in “a rescue locomotive” to move a “failed unit” causing congestion on southbound lines into London.

David Sidebottom, director of independent transport user watchdog Transport Focus, said on Saturday: “The severe disruption to services that followed power outages yesterday evening made routine journeys home or away for the weekend impossible for lots of rail passengers.”

He said the watchdog recognised the efforts made under “extreme circumstances” to keep passengers safe and help them complete essential journeys.

“Any passengers who heeded advice not to travel should claim delay repay compensation in order to get their money back, including those using a season ticket,” he added.

“People whose journey was severely disrupted should also keep receipts for all unexpected costs that arose from their efforts to complete their journeys yesterday, and contact their train operator to claim not just for their delay but any additional expenses they incurred.”

Nick King, Network Services Director for Network Rail, apologised on behalf of the rail industry for the disruption.

He said: “There was a major national grid failure. This caused a short-term loss of power to our signalling system and power supply equipment across a wide area of the rail network.

“Fortunately the back-up systems kicked in, but essential safety requirements did mean some disruption on several routes.

“Unfortunately one particular fleet of trains had a major systems failure as a result of the national grid failure.

“Many of these trains were unable to restart on their own and had to be attended by an engineer and this caused significant disruption across parts of the network.”

Mr King said Network Rail, operators and the British Transport Police worked “flat out” to get passengers safely off affected trains.

Trains continued to be affected on Saturday morning despite power bring restored.

Cancellations and amended timetables were expected on services operated by Great Northern, Grand Central and LNER.

Travellers at King’s Cross expressed frustration at the ongoing problems.

Raymond Holland, 62, who was trying to get to Boston in Lincolnshire with his family, said: “We didn’t know how bad it was going to be, we knew there were delays but not like this.”

Trains to Leeds and Edinburgh were among those cancelled.

Heading home from a night out with a friend, Kimberly Berton, 31, described the situation as “appalling”, adding: “We just want to get home. We’re so tired.”

Tom Moran, Managing Director of Thameslink and Great Northern, said passengers with any ticket type affected by the disruption on Friday could apply for compensation.

He said Great Northern services had “ongoing issues” on Saturday due to trains in the wrong locations and drivers working extra hours.

“This reduces availability for today which will unfortunately cause more cancellations,” he said.

“Replacement buses and extra staff are in place at key stations to help our customers.”