Ministers are understood to be planning to allow train companies and the track and signals operator to share financial risks and rewards from modernisation projects.
Operators would be allowed to take control of stations usually run by NR and they would be expected to work together more closely in a so-called “team approach”.
Officials are understood to be planning to pilot the project on lines from London to East Anglia, Ipswich and Norwich run by National Express East Anglia, handing NXEA a new short term contract to enable the pilot.
They are thought to have concerns about proposals from some train firms to take full control of tracks, signals and stations as well as trains.
The Department for Transport is expected to unveil the plans as part of a wider announcement covering the interim findings of a review of the industry and of a study on reforming franchises.