Rail Review

The Rail Review has been set up to recommend the most appropriate organisational and commercial frameworks to deliver the government’s vision for UK rail.

Terms of reference


The review’s final report will be a government white paper, which will set out the government’s intentions for reform of the rail sector. It will be published in autumn 2019. This white paper is also expected to reflect ongoing improvements the government is making to passenger experience during the course of the review.

The review may publish interim reports during the period of its work.


The government’s vision is for the UK to have a world-class railway, working as part of the wider transport network and delivering new opportunities across the nation. The Rail Review has been established to recommend the most appropriate organisational and commercial frameworks to deliver the government’s vision. It should be comprehensive in its scope and bold in its thinking, challenging received wisdom and looking to innovate.

The review will be independently chaired. Its recommendations should support delivery of:

  • commercial models for the provision of rail services that prioritise the interests of passengers and taxpayers
  • rail industry structures that promote clear accountability and effective joint-working for both passengers and the freight sector
  • a system that is financially sustainable and able to address long-term cost pressures
  • a railway that is able to offer good value fares for passengers, while keeping costs down for taxpayers
  • improved industrial relations, to reduce disruption and improve reliability for passengers
  • a rail sector with the agility to respond to future challenges and opportunities

The review’s remit does not include the infrastructure and services that should be provided by the railway. It will therefore not reconsider public investment decisions made through existing franchise agreements, Control Period 6 commitments, High Speed 2 and other major projects, or spending decisions that will be made through Spending Review 2019.

The government is investing record levels in the railways. Recommendations should avoid negative impacts on the public sector balance sheet and / or creating additional government expenditure beyond reasonable transition costs. The review’s conclusions will be reached in the context of the Department for Transport’s settlement at Spending Review 2019.

Structure and process

The review should develop a comprehensive and relevant evidence base to inform its findings. This should reflect analysis of the UK’s rail sector, the direction set by the Department for Transport’s Strategic Vision for Rail published in November 2017, evidence from previous reviews of elements of the rail sector, and experiences in other countries.

The review should also consider lessons from recent developments, such as the establishment of London North Eastern Railway as the Operator of Last Resort of the East Coast Franchise, and Professor Stephen Glaister’s inquiry into the May 2018 timetabling change.

The review team must effectively identify passenger, workforce and community priorities and concerns, including accessibility and the needs of freight and industry. It should consider how to improve transport services across UK regions and devolved nations, including exploring options for devolution of rail powers. It should engage with key stakeholders including industry bodies, national and local government, Parliament, and, where appropriate, the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales. It should have a structured approach to engagement.

The review’s recommendations must be practical and deliverable. It should ensure improvements for passengers are prioritised as soon as possible, while recognising the challenges of delivering significant change within current legal and regulatory frameworks. It should consider how to reform the sector over the short, medium and longer term, and how legislative and regulatory change might support necessary reform.


The review will report to the Secretary of State for Transport. The Secretary of State will keep Cabinet colleagues regularly updated on the review’s progress.

The Secretary of State has appointed Keith Williams as independent Chair of the review, leading the review team’s work on his behalf. The chair will direct the work through a new, dedicated team within government. The chair will have close oversight of the work to ensure that it meets these terms of reference, and to ensure effective engagement.

Keith Williams will also chair an expert challenge panel, who will support him in testing the review’s analysis and recommendations, and provide fresh perspective and advice.

Expert challenge panel members

The Rail Review’s expert challenge panel will support the independent Chair of the Review, Keith Williams. Its members will help to ensure the review thinks bravely and creatively, and that its recommendations can deliver the stability and improvements that rail passengers deserve.

The Secretary of State for Transport has invited the following individuals to be members of the expert challenge panel:

  • Dick Fearn, Independent Chair of Network Rail’s Western Route Supervisory Board and former Chief Executive Officer of Irish Rail
  • Tom Harris, former Transport Minister and Member of Parliament for Glasgow South
  • Margaret Llewellyn OBE, Chair of Network Rail’s Wales Route Supervisory Board and a non-executive director of the Development Bank of Wales, who has experience in the freight industry
  • Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and of the NP11 Board, and a leading advocate for the North of England
  • Dr Alice Maynard CBE, Transport for London board member and the former Chair of Scope, the disability equality charity, who has experience of passenger issues in the rail industry
  • Tony Poulter, non-executive board member at the Department for Transport and Chair of the East Coast Partnership