The Daily Telegraph said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is preparing to tell the publicly-owned Network Rail that he wants it to share responsibility for running the tracks with the private operating companies.
The move would mean companies such as Virgin, Southern or ScotRail would for the first time be given responsibility for maintenance and repairs, ending Network Rail’s monopoly.
Mr Grayling - who will set out his plans in a speech to the Policy Exchange think-tank on Tuesday - is said to believe it would incentivise the operators to carry out the work more quickly, reducing delays and possibly leading to lower fares.
The Telegraph said Mr Grayling’s support for giving the operators control over the tracks dated back over a decade when he was a Conservative opposition transport spokesman.
He was quoted as saying then: “We think, with hindsight, that the complete separation of track and train into separate businesses at the time of privatisation was not right for our railways.
“The separation has helped push up the cost of running the railways - and hence fares - and has slowed decisions about capacity improvements. Too many people and organisations are now involved in getting things done - so nothing happens.”
In response to the report, a Department for Transport spokesman said only: “I can confirm Chris Grayling is making a speech on Tuesday.”