Sole control of British railway tracks is to be stripped from state-owned Network Rail and handed over to private train operators in a major shake-up, it has been reported.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is to announce he wants to share responsibility of the running of the rail infrastructure at the Policy Exchange think-tank on Tuesday, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Network Rail currently runs a monopoly on track maintenance.

The Policy Exchange would only confirm Mr Grayling was due to give a speech on Tuesday evening.

As Shadow Transport Secretary, Mr Grayling spoke almost a decade ago of his desire to give private train operators more control over infrastructure.

He said: “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.”

Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald called the move “irresponsible”.