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Wednesday 12th
posted by Morning Star in Britain

by Lucas Davies-Herbst

RAIL passengers could be charged higher fares for a worse service now that First Group has been awarded the South West Trains franchise, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned yesterday.

The watchdog raised concerns over the London-Exeter route because Great Western Railway, the only other train operator providing services between the two cities, is also owned by First Group.

This means the company will have a monopoly on rail services in the region, similar to those held elsewhere by Virgin and Southern Rail, the watchdog warned.

The South West Trains franchise, currently operated by Stagecoach, will be taken over by First Group in partnership with Hong Kong-based company MTR on August 20.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the union was “deeply concerned” at the effect that the new franchise would have on its members working on South West Trains.

He vowed that RMT would “be seeking to secure cast-iron guarantees over jobs, the role of the guard, terms and conditions as well as the safety and quality of passenger services.”

CMA acting chief strategist Andrea Coscelli said: “This is a crucial route to the south-west, used by around half a million passengers a year.
“It’s therefore vital that passengers do not suffer as a result of reduced competition.”

He warned that a reduction in competition risked driving up fares and allowing First Group to maximise profits while lowering the overall quality of services on South West Trains routes.

The CMA could open an in-depth investigation if all parties involved fail to address competition standards and meet basic requirements in the South West Trains takeover.