Belfast Telegraph

Plan to cap London-Exeter rail fares amid South West Trains competition fears

Unregulated r ail fares between London and Exeter could be capped amid fears that passengers may be charged more after the South West Trains (SWT) franchise was awarded to First Group.

The firm has proposed that these fares could be linked to a number of comparable routes, and it would also maintain the availability of cheaper advance tickets.

It made the suggestions in response to c oncerns raised by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) about London-Exeter services as First Group already operates Great Western Railway, which runs the only other train service between the cities.

Around h alf a million passengers a year travel on the route.

The CMA decided there are "reasonable grounds" for believing the proposals, or a modified version of them, might be acceptable to remedy the competition concerns.

It has until September 20 to consider whether to accept them or carry out a detailed investigation. A public consultation will be held as part of this process.

The SWT franchise is currently operated by Stagecoach but will be taken over by First Group in partnership with Hong Kong-based company MTR on August 20.

About 40% of rail fares are regulated by the Government, which uses the previous July's Retail Prices Index measure of inflation to determine annual increases each January.

These include season tickets on most commuter routes and some off-peak return tickets on long distance journeys.

Train operating companies set the prices of unregulated tickets.

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