The creation of commuter rail authority for London would be a "pointless distraction" to improving the network, train companies say.

Transport for London yesterday outlined details of a proposal for the Mayor of London to take control of all suburban rail services.

This would see the creation of a London Regional Rail Authority, to be integrated into the rest of the capital's public transport network including the Tube, buses, DLR, and major roads, which TfL says would lead to faster and more reliable services.

But the Association of Train Operating Companies slammed the proposal, saying there were too few rail services based solely in London.

"The management of railways cannot solely be a matter for London," said George Muir, director general of ATOC.

TfL's proposal would be a "pointless distraction" away from the work of train companies in improving services across London, he said.

TfL transport commissioner Bob Kiley said the bid for the mayor to be given responsibility for the running of the overland network would allow a 'fully integrated' transport network.

"We should all seize this opportunity to put joined-up thinking into practice and make a difference to passenger journeys," he said.

Mayor Ken Livingstone said the creation of a London rail authority would enable TfL to make the kind of improvements seen on the bus network to the railways.

There have been massive improvements in the number of buses serving London, but the Mayor has spent millions of pounds funding this.

Taking on the overland rail system in London which accounts for more than a third of all rail journeys made in the UK would be a massive challenge.

With hundreds of thousands of extra people expected to be living in London within the next decade, the city's creaking public transport network could be pushed to breaking point, without significant new investment.

Train delays are said to cost the London economy about £140 million a year, with twice as many services arriving late compared with seven years ago.