Next year's termination of the Central Trains rail franchise may have to be put off for up to 12 months because Government officials have fallen behind with the mountain of paperwork involved.
Last October, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced the train operator's network - including all West Midlands commuter trains as well as a number of long-distance services through Birmingham - would be split up among different operators following the end of the current franchise agreement on March 31 2006.
However, a number of rail industry sources told The Birmingham Post the Department for Transport and Strategic Rail Authority had gone quiet since the initial announcement.
Many in the industry now doubt whether the huge amount of work left to be completed - even before companies are invited to bid for the franchise slices - can be done in the 12 months remaining before the franchise is due to end.
The situation has been exacerbated by the looming General Election and the fact the DfT takes over the SRA's responsibilities on April 4.
One rail industry source said: "Since the Transport Secretary announced this split, all has gone quiet.
"National Express Group, which owns Central Trains, has still had no formal meetings with the DfT over this.
"But the clock is ticking and Government officials are dragging their feet, to say the least.
"Setting up a new franchise is a very big piece of work - and splitting up the complex Central franchise is more difficult than most - and considering no serious work has actually begun on all the various aspects, next March doesn't seem very far away at all."
The DfT said officials were still looking at a number of options and had not reached a final conclusion about how the franchise would be split up.
A spokesman refused to rule out the March 31 2006 franchise expiry date being extended.
"We are aware there is a deadline and that a decision will be made by then. We haven't made the decision exactly how the franchise will be split up yet and the timescale will be governed by that.
"Until such times as the decision is made, there is nothing else to say."
After Mr Darling's announcement, part of an overall reduction in UK franchises from 25 to 19, speculation has been rife that Silverlink would be given the West Midlands commuter routes, Chiltern would take over Central's services on the Moor Street and Snow Hill lines, and the long-distance services would go to Virgin CrossCountry, among others.
However, West Midlands officials have expressed concerns that future train services may be controlled from offices outside the region.
Last night, a spokesman for the public transport body Centro, said: "The most important thing is to get it right. We don't want to see a rushed change of franchise.
"When it comes to drawing up franchises, content and specification of services is critical.
"At the very least, we want to see the current level of services maintained."
The Secretary of State has the power to extend a rail franchise by one year after its expiry date.