Train passengers travelling on some routes between Scotland and Preston are to benefit from capped fares following an investigation by competition watchdogs.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found competition issues on more than 20 routes following the award of the West Coast Rail franchise to a joint venture between Aberdeen-based FirstGroup and Italy’s Trenitalia.

The routes included 17 between Preston and Scotland, ending at Glasgow or Edinburgh, where passengers will be able to choose only West Coast Rail, operated by FirstGroup and Trenitalia, or TransPennine Express, which is operated solely by FirstGroup. On the additional four routes, passengers can still only choose from three operators.

The CMA said it was concerned that this limited competition could lead to passengers facing higher fares and less availability of cheaper tickets.

It has now accepted proposals from FirstGroup and Trenitalia to address its concerns including 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. 

As a result of these measures, the CMA said award of the franchise can now go ahead without a more in-depth Phase 2 investigation. First Trenitalia is due to take over from the current operator Virgin Trains on Sunday.



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