UK: Regulator finds over 20 concerns over West Coast Rail contract

The UK monopoly regulator on Thursday, November 7,  said the award of West Coast rail franchise to FirstGroup PLC-led joint venture could lead to higher fares and less availability of cheaper tickets because train passengers would have no alternatives, or limited options to choose from. 

West Coast Rail, a joint venture between UK transport operator FirstGroup and Italian train operator Trenitalia, was awarded the West Coast rail franchise by the UK transport department in August. The contract, which is expected to run until March 2031, is for running passenger trains between London and Scotland from December 8.

Bus and rail service operator FirstGroup holds a 70% stake in the venture, with the remainder owned by Italian-government owned Trenitalia.

The Competition & Markets Authority said it has found competition concerns relating to 21 routes in its phase one probe into the train contract award, 17 between Preston and Scotland and 4 between Oxenholme and Carlisle.

“This is because passengers will only be able to choose from West Coast Rail – operated by a joint venture between FirstGroup and Trenitalia – for 17 routes, or TransPennine Express, operated solely by FirstGroup. On the 4 remaining routes, passengers can only choose from 3 operators in total: West Coast Rail, TransPennine Express and one other operator,” the regulator said.

The CMA said FirstGroup and Trenitalia will have the opportunity to offer remedies to its competition concerns and that it may undertake a further in-depth probe should proposals offered by the companies be insufficient.

Full Content: Financial Times

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