Plans to give London's mayor power over suburban railways are being "finessed" with Government transport officials, according to Ken Livingstone.

The mayor has made no secret of his desire to take responsibility for the London overland train network from the national Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) and give it to his Transport for London (TfL) agency.

Now it seems his wish is close to being fulfilled after he yesterday told the London Assembly that transport minister Tony McNulty - his point of contact in Alistair Darling's Department for Transport (DfT) - has approved the idea.

"We have a great friend in Tony McNulty, whose preference is for transfer of these powers," Mr Livingstone told assembly members during the last question time of this mayoral term, before the June election.

"I'm very optimistic that we're going to see progress on this."

He said a variety of schemes for the transfer were being "discussed and finessed" between his officials and officials at the DfT, and that he would soon start lobbying London MPs and peers to throw their weight behind the proposals.

Later in the session, however, the mayor did admit his meeting with Network Rail's boss had not been so positive.

Mr Livingstone said he was "not enthused" about the proposals, but could not dismiss them out of hand either.