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CMA: Rail Merger Raises Competition Concerns On 21 Routes

The CMA has raised concerns on 21 routes, 17 between Preston and Scotland and 4 between Oxenholme and Carlisle, under the new award of the West Coast Rail franchise.

In August, FirstGroup' joint venture with Trenitalia UK has received the new West Coast Partnership award from the Department for Transport. The new partnership is due to commence on December 8, 2019.

Following its initial Phase 1 investigation, CMA has found that 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.

In the 4 remaining routes, passengers only have 3 options in total - West Coast Rail, TransPennine Express and one other operator.

The CMA said it is concerned that this limited option could lead to higher fares and less availability of cheaper tickets. The companies need to offer methods to address the CMA's concerns, to avoid in-depth Phase 2 investigation. In previous cases, such concerns were resolved by the companies agreeing to price caps on affected lines.

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