Labour and the unions have criticised Government plans to require Network Rail and future franchise holders to share responsibility for track maintenance.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling has outlined different models to create more integation between the management of rail services and infrastructure, although unions called the plans 'piecemeal privatisation'.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald
Mr Grayling said from 2018 new franchises would have 'integrated operating teams' combining Network Rail and operator staff to ensure better links between services and track.
He also announced the first new fully integrated rail operation in decades on the planned East West Rail line. An East West Rail special purpose vehicle would have responsibility for both services and infrastructure under the same management model.
Mr Grayling said: 'I intend to start bringing back together the operation of track and train on our railways. When things go wrong, a lack of a joined up approach can make things much worse for the passenger.
‘Our railway is much better run by one joined up team of people. They don’t have to work for the same company. They do have to work in the same team.’
He told MPs he would ‘continue to develop the model for greater alignment of track and train as further franchises are renewed – including the option of joint ventures’.
The Department for Transport said the South Eastern and East Midlands lines, which are due to be awarded in 2018, would achieve the closer alignment of incentives between the two parts of the rail network.
However Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald told the BBC the Government ‘appears to be contemplating yet further complexity, yet further fragmentation, and more opportunities for private entities to extract value out of our railway system’.
Union Unite said the move 'raises the spectre of the Hatfield train crash in 2000 which happened under the watch of the privately-owned Railtrack’.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the Government was ‘dragging the railways back to the failed and lethal Railtrack model’.
He said: ‘There is no question at all that this plan represents the piecemeal privatisation of Network Rail which over a period of time will see both train operations and track run by the same bunch of companies who have failed so abysmally over the past two decades.’
Mr Grayling also announced that he will set up East West Rail as a special purpose vehicle, in order to accelerate the permissions needed to reopen the route from Oxford to Cambridge, which secured backing in the Autumn Statement, and to ensure private sector involvement to design, build and operate the route as an integrated organisation.
Officials said the new organisation will be established in the New Year and chaired by Rob Brighouse, the former chief executive of Chiltern Rail.