This is in addition to plans already underway by NR to raise £1.8bn, primarily from property sales, to help fund its £40bn five-year investment programme up to March 31 2019. Assets under consideration for potential sale include 7500 properties, freight yards, major passenger stations, depots, electrical power assets, surplus land, and telecommunications assets.

NR is keen to explore the potential for bringing in new capital and expertise, and says this is a key part of its strategy to benchmark its competitiveness against the market, maximise commercial opportunities and inject private capital into the railway to help fund investment.

"Our approach is all about financial discipline, with a renewed focus on our core activities while being open and innovative about new sources of finance to fund our growing railway," says Mr Mark Carne, NR's CEO. "While no decisions have yet been made, if there are investors or others with expertise in key areas who can help us do that, then we should look to embrace those opportunities."