A Government department overseeing transport has existed since 1976, with the current iteration referred to as the Department for Transport having existed since 2002

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) focus is to: ‘create a safe, secure, efficient and reliable transport system that works for the people who depend on it; supporting a strong, productive economy and the jobs and homes people need.’

The Department for Transport’s role is to provide strategic direction and funding to the railways in England and Wales, as well as to procure rail franchises and projects. The Department’s work is directed and overseen by the Secretary of State for Transport, at present Chris Grayling, and his Ministerial team which is made up of four MPs.

The Minister of State Jesse Norman and Parliamentary Undersecretary Andrew Jones are both directly involved in rail.

DfT Rail Group

The DfT Rail Group is a single, integrated section of the DfT. Its role is to provide strategic direction and funding to the railways in England and Wales, as well as to procure rail franchises and projects.


The Rail Group has two Directors General who oversee five separate areas:

  • One Railway and Security
  • Rail Strategy Reform and Analysis
  • Network Services
  • Rail Major Projects
  • Passenger Services.

Passenger Services is divided into Director Franchise Markets, Policy, Operations and Change, Programme & Procurement Excellence. All of these areas have their own task force headed up by different members of the Rail Group.


The Rail Group’s objectives are to ensure the delivery of improved operational and financial performance, and safety, on the railway. It is also tasked with securing appropriate rail passenger services at an acceptable price through effective specification and procurement.

The Group develops and delivers a robust, affordable and sustainable strategy for the development of the railway that supports wider transport objectives and ensures the cost-effective and timely delivery of major rail projects.

The Scottish Government takes responsibility for all of the above in Scotland.

Rail Review

A sweeping review to transform Britain’s railways was launched on 20th September 2018 by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

The review — the most significant since privatisation — will consider ambitious recommendations for reform. The review will be led by Independent Chair Keith Williams, the former British Airways Chief Executive and Deputy Chairman of John Lewis Partnership and will build on the Government’s franchising strategy and consider regional partnerships and how innovation can be used to improve services and value for money for passengers.

Network Rail

Network Rail is a private sector ‘not for dividend’ company, regulated by the Office of Rail and Road. It owns, operates, maintains and develops Britain’s railway and is responsible for ensuring that the railway is safe and reliable. The Secretary of State for Transport is accountable to Parliament for the activities and performance of Network Rail.

A framework agreement published in September 2014 stipulates that the Secretary of State has the power to appoint and dismiss the Chair of Network Rail and approve the board’s suggested candidate for Chief Executive. The Secretary of State also determines the Rail Investment Strategy and Statement of Funds Available which contain the Government’s plans for investment on the network.


The DfT oversees the British Transport Police Authority (BTPA) and Transport Focus. The Chair of the BTPA is appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport directly. Transport Focus has a board of non-executive members appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport (a Chair and five members).

London and Continental Railways (LCR) is wholly owned by the Department of Transport and High Speed Two (HS2) Limited is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Transport.

The East West Railway Company (EWRC) is a non-departmental public arm’s length body set up by the Government to accelerate the East West Rail project – a new rail link between Cambridge and Oxford. EWRC works with the Department for Transport.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) works with the DfT but independently investigates accidents to improve railway safety and inform the industry and the public.

Secretary of State for Transport: The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP
Minister of State for Transport: Jesse Norman MP
Under Secretary of State for Transport: Andrew Jones MP
Under Secretary of State for Transport: Baroness Sugg CBE
Under Secretary of State for Transport: Nusrat Ghani MP
Permanent Secretary: Bernadette Kelly CB
Director General High-Speed Rail and Major Rail Projects: Clive Maxwell
Director General Rail Group: Polly Payne
Director General Rail Group: Ruth Hannant

Address: Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR
Phone: 0300 330 3000
Email: dft@dft.gov.uk
Website: www.dft.gov.uk