Williams Rail Review

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

Terms of reference


The final report white paper Great British Railways: The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail setting out the government’s intentions for reform of the rail sector was published in May 2021.

The review published 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 was established to recommend the most appropriate organisational and commercial frameworks to deliver the government’s vision.

The review was independently chaired. It was asked to consider ways to support:

  • 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 did not include the infrastructure and services that should be provided by the railway. It therefore did 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 were to be made through Spending Reviews.

Structure and process

The structure and process of the review are detailed in the Williams Rail Review Call for Evidence Summary of Responses.


The review reported to the Secretary of State for Transport. The Secretary of State kept Cabinet colleagues updated on the review’s progress.

The Secretary of State appointed Keith Williams as independent Chair of the review, leading the review team’s work on his behalf.

Keith Williams also chaired an expert challenge panel, which supported him in testing the review’s analysis and recommendations, and provide fresh perspective and advice.

Keith Williams is non-executive chairman of Royal Mail, former deputy chairman of the John Lewis Partnership and former chief executive of British Airways.

Expert challenge panel members

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

The following individuals were 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