Boris Johnson is preparing to hand leaders in the north responsibility for train services as part of a big industry shakeup.
Two struggling rail franchises, Northern and the Transpennine Express, are to be devolved to a new body that would be similar to Transport for London in the capital.
The new body would have funding and commissioning powers either through Transport for the North, which was created last year, or a new organisation.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps is due to announce the plan shortly, the Sunday Times reported.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “The transport secretary has made it clear that improving train punctuality is one of his top priorities and the government is investing heavily in transforming services in the north.
“As the Prime Minister recently set out, this government wants to drive growth across the north including through Northern Powerhouse Rail, giving local leaders greater powers and investing £3.6bn in towns across England.
“However, further announcements will be made in due course after properly considering all options and consultation with Williams and Northern leaders.”
Shortly after he became Prime Minister Boris Johnson lent his support to the £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail plan, which would link Liverpool and Manchester with Leeds and Hull.
He has also vowed to “turbo-charge” the economy with a faster rail link between Leeds and Manchester. At the time he said the details would be released following the review into HS2, which is due to finish later in the autumn.
Northern was one of the firms worst affected by the May timetable chaos last year, when a change to train times led to thousands of delays and cancellations and instances of overcrowding.
As part of the HS2 review, which is being led by former HS2 chair Douglas Oakervee and sceptic Lord Berkeley, the government will look into whether and how the scheme should be delivered.
Earlier this week Shapps told MPs that the project, which will link London to the north in stages, is expected to cost £88bn rather than its official price tag of £56bn.
The whole project, which was due to be finished by 2033, is also facing a seven-year delay.