The command paper, entitled Reforming our Railways: Putting the Customer First is the government's response to the Sir Roy McNulty's Rail Value for Money study published last year, which identified inefficiencies of £2.5-3.5bn.

The government claims that despite steady growth in passenger numbers and freight volumes over the last 15 years, unit costs have not fallen and Britain's railways are among the most expensive in Europe. It wants to end above-inflation fare rises "at the earliest opportunity," and reduce the burden of the railways on the public finances as it seeks to reduce its structural deficit.