Friday 6 December 2019 8:08 am

West Coast Rail franchise: CMA accepts First Group price cap proposal

The competition watchdog has accepted First Group’s remedies for competition problems on the West Coast Rail franchise.

The deal ensures First Group and Trenitalia can run the franchise after the watchdog initially barred the government’s contract award to them over concerns about price hikes.

Read more: CMA flags competition concerns on West Coast Rail routes

Remedies offered by the pair mean some Preston to Scotland rail fares will now be capped.

“After careful consideration, and a public consultation, the CMA has now accepted proposals from First Group and Trenitalia to address its concerns,” the regulator said. 

“For both West Coast Rail and Transpennine Express services these include caps on unregulated fares and maintaining the same availability of cheaper advance tickets for all 21 routes that raise competition issues.

“The two operators must submit regular reports to the CMA to show they are complying.”

It means the rail operators avoid a more in-depth phase two investigation, after the CMA had warned that price hikes could affect 21 routes.

Read more: Virgin Trains West Coast Rail manager moves to First Group

The franchise award means passengers will only have a choice between First Group and Trenitalia’s West Coast Rail franchise or First Group’s Transpennine Express service for 17 routes.