By Jonathan Davies

Network Rail is too big and needs to be broken up into smaller, regional organisations, Sir Richard Branson has told the BBC.

The Virgin Rail founder said Network Rail is to blame for the majority of the delays suffered by its passengers.

Sir Richard's comments come after the government "paused" parts of the £38.5 billion Network Rail investment plan due to rising costs.

"Network Rail is far too big a company," he said. "I think that companies that kind of size should be broken up into small units."

Branson said train companies should be able to operate the lines they run on.

"We get enormously frustrated that people say will say that Virgin Rail has delays, but 90% of those delays are down to Network Rail," he told the BBC.

"If we were running the track underneath, because we've got our trains running on that track we'd make absolutely certain that track was fixed and running well, because we value our reputation."

A Network Rail spokesperson hit back at Sir Richard's claims that the organisation was to blame for the majority of Virgin delays. The spokesperson said: "Over the last year (to 30 May), infrastructure faults were responsible for around a third (36%) of delays to Virgin Trains services."