A £9.4 billion package of rail projects, including £4.2 billion worth of new schemes, has been announced by the government.
The High Level Output Specification programme plans include the electrification of the Midland Main Line in what was hailed by Prime Minister David Cameron as the "biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era".
"Investment on this scale, in every region of the country, shows how this coalition government is focused on delivering an affordable, reliable and faster railway network that drives jobs and growth," said Transport Secretary Justine Greening.
"These plans to increase capacity and shorten journey times on intercity, commuter and freight services are, alongside our plans for high speed rail, absolutely key to securing our country’s prosperity in the decades ahead."
However Labour said it had announced rail electrification plans in 2009 and it was "a bit rich" for coalition government ministers to take credit now after presiding over "two years of dither and delay".
Campaigners said they feared the investment would be paid for by higher rail fares, while transport union the RMT said the projects announced "had been talked about for years".
The announcement covers the period 2014-19. A total of £5.2 billion worth of projects have already been committed to for this period.
These include completion of the ongoing Crossrail and Thameslink schemes, and electrification between London and Cardiff, Manchester to Liverpool and Preston and across the Pennines.
The £4.2 billion worth of new schemes include: upgrades to stations and tracks creating enough capacity around cities for an additional 140,000 daily rail commutes at peak times.
This includes £350 million for lengthening of platforms at London's Waterloo station; faster journeys and more train capacity from £240 million of improvements along the East Coast Main Line from north east England down through Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire to London; and a new £500 million rail link between the Great Western Main Line and Heathrow.
There will also be creation of a high-capacity "electric spine" running from Yorkshire and the West Midlands to south coast ports.
This comprises an £800 million electrification and upgrade from Sheffield - through Nottingham, Derby and Leicester - to Bedford, completing the full electrification of the Midland Main Line out of London St Pancras and electrification of the lines from Nuneaton and Bedford to Oxford, Reading, Basingstoke and Southampton.
Electric rail will be taken beyond Cardiff to Swansea, completing the full electrification of the Great Western Main Line out of London Paddington at a total cost of more than £600 million, and electrifying the Welsh Valley lines, including Ebbw Vale, Maesteg and the Vale of Glamorgan; and there will be completion in full of the "Northern Hub" cluster of rail enhancements with the approval of £322 million of outstanding track and capacity upgrades across Manchester city centre, Manchester Airport and across to Liverpool.
"From Crossrail, high speed rail and now the billions of pounds of investment we are announcing today, this government is committed to taking the long term decisions to deliver growth and jobs," said Prime Minister David Cameron.
"In what is the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era this investment will mean faster journeys, more seats, better access to stations, greater freight links and a truly world class rail network."
The government said the package would be funded "in part from fare rises already announced in 2010 and also from the substantial efficiency savings which projects like electrification will have on the long-term operating costs of the railways".
"The Tory-led government cut the rail investment plans they inherited by more than three-quarters of a billion pounds and have presided over two years of dither and delay over vital rail projects and train procurement," said Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle.
"It was Labour that announced an ambitious programme of rail electrification back in 2009.
"It's a bit rich for ministers now to take credit for these plans, not least when they have spent the last two years delaying these schemes."
She refused to rule out renationalising the railways despite repeated questions on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"We have not ruled out, and I have not ruled out, restructuring the rail infrastructure to give better value for money," she said.