Local authorities fear the government could make them a scapegoat for cuts in local rail services, the Local Government Association told MPs last week.
They claim efforts to make them more responsible for running rural rail routes will be undermined by their inability to influence track and train operators.
LGA environment board members warned MPs on the Commons transport select committee that they needed to know precisely what costs they would face in running and maintaining services.
Similar information is available when planning road based public transport, they said.
'It [rail] is a lot more fragmented. The sheer fragmentation of the current structure militates against us.
The lack of continuity in funding streams is a big factor, ' said LGA environment board member Tony Page.
'There are local authorities who frequently purchase buses, for example, but that's a service over which they have control and therefore it might be practical to purchase the bus. We don't have control and influence over rail services.'
Both he and LGA colleague Shona Johnstone highlighted the presence of long-term contracts with highway contractors as examples of more stable relationships, which would be hard to emulate in the rail sector.