Arriva moves to avoid referral on Welsh railway deal

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The bus and train group Arriva has agreed to give undertakings to the competition authorities to avert a monopolies referral of its takeover of the new Wales and Borders rail franchise.

The bus and train group Arriva has agreed to give undertakings to the competition authorities to avert a monopolies referral of its takeover of the new Wales and Borders rail franchise.

Bob Davies, the chief executive of Arriva, said yesterday that the company would be happy to extend an integrated ticketing scheme to rival bus operators in the region so that rail tickets would be valid on any bus, not just those operated by Arriva.

The Office of Fair Trading caused confusion yesterday by announcing that it would refer the takeover unless suitable undertakings were given by Arriva.

Its statement then went on to say that Arriva had indeed offered to introduce an integrated ticketing scheme that would be open to any bus operator. The statement added that in the OFT's view, this undertaking appeared to answer its competition concerns "in a clear-cut manner".

The timing of the announcement by the OFT caused some surprise because Arriva has been operating the enlarged Wales and Borders franchise for three months under a 15-year franchise awarded to the group last year. In contrast, the OFT referred FirstGroup's bid for ScotRail before the franchise had even been awarded. A decision on who will operate ScotRail is due shortly.

Wales and Borders has an annual turnover including subsidies of £200m a year, and over the lifetime of the franchise Arriva will receive more than £2bn in taxpayers' support.

Mr Davies said: "We will be happy to work with other local bus operators across the piece. There is no point in having an integrated ticketing arrangement unless it works in this way."

Arriva, which has a large share of the bus market in north Wales and some of the border counties but less presence in south Wales, has proposed about 30 separate integrated ticketing schemes.

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