The government is looking a series of reforms to the railways after the first day of a three-day industrial action on Southern Rail left up to half a million commuters stranded.

Some of the proposals being considered include a ban on all-out strikes and the breakup of the country's biggest train operator, Govia Thameslink Railway, The Times says.

The newspaper said that senior Conservative members are demanding emergency legislation be passed to ensure that at least half of all train services are keep in operation during industrial action.

The Times understands that the government is examining the idea and has commissioned Whitehall to consider how such laws would work.

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, when asked whether the law would be changed following the industrial action by Southern Rail workers, he said: "I am not ruling anything in or out."

Tory MP Chris Philp has proposed that it should be made a legal requirement for strikes on critical public infrastructure, including railways to be "reasonable and proportionate." Philp put forward the plan at a meeting between Grayling and his Tory colleagues who hold seats in the southeast, which has been severely affected by the industrial action.

Another MP has suggested banning industrial action altogether if it is called on safety grounds when the industry regulator has deemed them safe.

Southern rail
Commuters wait to board their train at East Croydon station in London

Southern rail's strike action is based on claims by the union that driver-only operated trains are dangerous. The strike action which started on Tuesday 13 December saw all 2,242 services cancelled, in what is believed to be the biggest strike action since the railways were privatised in the mid-1990s.

The Times said that the government may strip GTR, Southern's parent company, of its mega franchise in the new year. GTR runs other commuter lines - Southern and Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern, in the southeast. The newspaper said that there are concerns among the rail industry that the Southern strike will "poison" the rest of the industry.

The newspaper said that although Grayling had ruled out stripping GTR of its franchises, there seems to have been a shift in thinking following its poor handling of the strike action and its workforce relations.,

Grayling had said that Southern had to perform better and that "there are issues beyond just the ... strikes."

Mirror backs calls to bring back railways into public ownership

Meanwhile the Mirror said that it is "throwing its weight behind growing calls to re-nationlise the railways." It said the move to put back the railways into public hands was backed by union bosses, MPs and the public.

"The franchise system isn't working. Taking our railways back into public ownership is extremely popular," Labour's Andy McDonald said.

RMT union head Mick Cash said: "Privatisation has amounted to two decades of the great train robbery. ... Passengers foot the bill with the highest fares in Europe for the worst services while profits are siphoned off to subsidise fares in France and Germany. It is time to end this madness."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier this year had proposed bringing back the railways into public ownership.