Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rail Franchise Award May Lead to Fares Rise - CMA

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Rail Franchise Award May Lead to Fares Rise - CMA

Article excerpt

Byline: BUSINESS EDITOR graeme.whitfield@ncjmedia.co.uk graeme.whitfield

THE decision to award the Northern rail franchise to Sunderland transport group Arriva may result in higher fares on some routes in the region, a business watchdog has said.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that fares may that fares may rise on bus routes in Northumberland, Darlington and other areas of the North because the rail franchise overlaps with bus and rail routes that Arriva already operates.

The authority has recommended that caps be put on some of the routes affected, including X14, X15 and X18 in the Ashington area.

Arriva has expressed its disappointment at the findings, but says it will work with the CMA until its final report is released later this year.

As well as the areas of potential conflict in the North East, the report highlights problems in Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Teesside.

Phil Evans, who chaired the inquiry for the CMA, said: "We assessed the franchise award thoroughly and have provisionally found that it could lead to higher fares for passengers on some local rail and bus services in the North of England, which would be significant for consumers using these services.

"However, we have not identified competition concerns arising from this merger on most routes and we recognise Arriva's commitment to bringing a range of benefits through the Northern rail franchise to passengers, such as better trains and improved customer service.

"Our remedies will protect passengers in the relatively few local areas where we have identified competition concerns.

"We are now inviting responses to our provisional findings and remedies notice, and will continue to assess all the evidence before we make our final decision."

Arriva won the Northern rail franchise last December and began operating it in April. …

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