Rail lines closed during the notorious Beeching cuts of the 1960s could be reopened, the Transport Secretary has announced.
Chris Grayling said he wants to identify which routes would boost the economy, encourage house-building and ease overcrowding.
Restoring lost capacity is one of a number of reforms featured in the Government’s new rail strategy.
There are plans to split the troubled Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise when the current contract with Govia Thameslink Railway comes to an end in 2021.
A public consultation has been opened on splitting up the Great Western Railway franchise.
It is proposed that one franchise would focus on regional services and another on long-distance routes.
The strategy also includes publicly-owned Network Rail sharing its responsibility for running the tracks with private train operators.
Joint teams managing day-to-day operations will be rolled out across the South Eastern network with a new Alliance Director being introduced to take overall responsibility.
Mr Grayling said: “The last few years have seen massive growth on Britain’s railways. This industry has reversed decades of decline under British Rail, delivered new investment and new trains, and doubled the number of passengers.
“But now we need to build on that success by building a new model for the 2020s and beyond, one more able to deal with the huge rise in passenger numbers and the challenges of an increasingly congested network.
“Rail passengers deserve a more reliable, more efficient service and I will deliver it by ending the one-size-fits-all approach of franchising and bringing closer together the best of the public and private sector.”