THE people in charge of ensuring Britain's rail services arrive on time and safely have vowed to "restore faith and trust" to passengers after years of chaos on the rail network in the North.

Speaking exclusively to The Northern Echo at Network Rail's Middlesbrough Delivery Unit, the chairman, chief executive and managing director for the Eastern side of the country, said Britain's railway system needed reform.

Last night, the bosses of the government-owned railway infrastructure firm apologised for playing its part in 'poor rail performance,' just weeks after Northern Rail learned it would be stripped of its franchise on March 1.

The Northern Echo:

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said: "Network Rail bears a large share of responsibility when it comes to train service delays, we don’t hide behind that and we must never hide behind train operators."

Arriva-owned Northern Rail previously blamed part of its own poor performance on Network Rail's infrastructure and timetabling requirements.

Northern Rail admitted that as a result of the 'sheer number' of changes it required to the running of its trains, approvals for service changes were sometimes delayed in circumstances beyond its control.

Last month, the Office of Rail and Road launched an investigation into how Network Rail contributed to rail service delays nationally.

Mr Haines said: "An investigation into Network Rail by the Office of Road and Rail (ORR) is in two parts of the country, in the North-West and West Midlands.

"The key characteristic of both is that they have timetables that don't work, and they don't work because the way we run railways in this country is broken.

"The government recognises that, and it has commissioned a review by Keith Williams, and the opposition recognised it as well and indeed published their own manifesto for change to the railway."

The ORR found that on a national level Network Rail's contribution to passenger train delay minutes was 58 percent, while train operating companies themselves were responsible for the remaining 42 percent.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Haines said: “We’ve had very extensive conversations with the ORR, and to stop a situation whereby a franchisee bids assuming there will be infrastructure that network rail has never been asked or funded to deliver.

"Currently the system creates situations where passengers are promised things which are never been on the agenda to be delivered."

But seeing an almost double in passenger numbers over the past decade, Rob McIntosh, Network Rail's managing director for the eastern side of the country, said franchise-holders on Teesside 'assumed' access to the same bit of track at the same time, posing higher risks of delays and cancellations.

He said: "There’s a very acute issue in Middlesbrough that there's Northern Rail, TransPennine Express and LNER, who all expect to have their trains on the same bit of track at the same time, but that doesn’t work."

The Northern Echo:

Suggesting the wheels were in motion to adapt infrastructure to meet demand, Mr McIntosh said Network Rail was working with the Tees Valley Combined Authority and the Department of Transport to develop a scheme to ensure extra services on Teesside could be accommodated.

He said a new platform and increasing railway track capacity in Middlesbrough was part of Network Rail's two main schemes for the Tees Valley.

He said Network Rail was reviewing a change to the track layout at Darlington Railway Station to allow more services into the town.

He added: "At the same time, it will create some regeneration around Darlington, creating a very different station environment, into the wider town master plan – this (upgrade) will also help us with East Coast Mainline capacity."

The Northern Echo:

Describing that Network Rail's board of directors were keen in seeing the outcome of The Williams Review, Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy, said: "We wouldn’t want customers to think, we didn’t feel responsible for the outcome – because were all responsible for the outcome, and one of the reasons we are so keen in seeing Keith Williams’ review, it wont be a review, it’ll be a whitepaper published with a proposition to change the way the railway works.

“People are fed up of the railway blaming other bits of the railway, but we want it to work and we want a system that will make it work."

Promising Britain's railways were improving, Mr Haines said: "There's more we need to do to improve the condition of assets, reduce point failures or overhead line failures, but actually over the last eight or nine years, they’ve been getting better every year.

"What’s been getting worse is our ability to run a system where there are more trains, more passengers, but the industry hasn’t joined up to come up with a coherent plan, so we are passionate about the opportunities of The Williams Review to fix those underlying things.