Labour could bring back British Rail as part of its renationalisation plan, with shadow chancellor John McDonnell promising “full integration, as best we can” between track and train.
Management of the network – track, signalling and major stations – was split from train operations during the break-up of British Rail in the 1990s.
The network is now run by Network Rail, a government-controlled company.
The trains are split into 25 privately owned franchises.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr McDonnell hinted Labour would not buy back franchises and compensate their shareholders with government bonds – the system he has suggested for water renationalisation – but rather wait for franchises to expire.
“As the franchises end, we would bring them back into public ownership,” he said.
“We want to ensure full integration as best we can, because that will bring efficiencies. It will mean a more effective and a safer railway.”