Half of Britain’s rail services would be brought back within public control under a plan to strip train companies of the right to set fares, timetables and quality standards across London and the Home Counties. The Times

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, is preparing to submit a bid next year to take over most of Southern, one of the biggest train franchises, from 2009 and is drawing up plans to take control of all commuter trains that terminate in the capital, including those that start their journeys well beyond Greater London.

The move would reverse one of the basic principles of rail privatisation, which was that companies should have the right to set open and off-peak fares and to keep all the profits.

The Government is committed publicly to maintaining the current franchising system, but ministers believe privately that Livingstone’s model may deliver a better long-term structure for the rail industry.