The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions today announced Mr McAllister would head the team preparing a "company limited by guarantee" (CLG) bid to take over Railtrack plc's role as operator of the railway network.
A CLG would be a private sector company run on commercial lines but without shareholders. Any operating surplus would be reinvested in the rail network.
Mr McAllister said: "My experience at Ford has shown that with the right management, investment and planning, companies can be transformed."
Railtrack's administrator will make recommendations on proposals for how its rail assets are transferred out of administration as a going concern.