The biggest shake-up of the railways since the privatisation of British Rail will not get underway until after the next election, amid Whitehall wrangling over the new body being set up to to run the network.
Great British Railways (GBR) will not be fully operational until between April and June 2024, according to a timetable prepared by the rail regulator.
Rail industry bosses have told The Telegraph of growing frustration about the slow pace. They blamed Government red tape for a failure to agree GBR's powers and remit.
A timetable prepared by the Office of Rail and Road reveals the "development of policy and legislation" by Whitehall officials will take until between April and June next year.
Industry sources said that a legal entity will not be set up until April next year. GBR is scheduled to be "fully operational" between April and June 2024. New contracts that promise better levels of service will be put in place between July and September 2024.
The next general election is scheduled to be held on May 2, 2024.
The publicly owned body was hailed by Boris Johnson as the answer to a quarter of a century of frustration with rail franchises recently as May.
The Prime Minister said: "For too long passengers have not had the level of service they deserve."
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, added: "Great British Railways marks a new era in the history of our railways."
The Conservative MP for Blackpool North and former rail minister, Paul Maynard, said: "Great British Railways is a massive opportunity to put our rail system in the right place. But the Government will need to be clear what benefits will be seen when, and not lose sight of the passenger interest in the very complex work of constructing a new system."
Mr Shapps is also expected to announce at the Conservative party conference that GBR's headquarters will be based outside of London and invite towns and cities to apply to house new body.
A spokesman for the Government said: "These reforms are vital and we will not rush their introduction."
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