Byers seeks assurances on Prism Rail takeover

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The Independent Online

Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, yesterday intervened in the £172m takeover of Prism Rail by National Express because of worries about how the deal would affect competition on the London to Stansted airport route.

Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, yesterday intervened in the £172m takeover of Prism Rail by National Express because of worries about how the deal would affect competition on the London to Stansted airport route.

Mr Byers said that the takeover would give National Express a monopoly on rail and coach services to the airport. He has now ordered the Director General of Fair Trading, John Bridgeman, to seek undertakings from National Express regarding the price and quality of coach services on the route.

The ruling, in accordance with the advice of Mr Bridgeman, follows concerns that National Express could use its monopoly to raise fares while reducing the quality of the service. Mr Byers has the power to ask for undertakings instead of referring a merger to the Competition Commission. Mr Bridgeman is to report back by the middle of next month.

The Prism deal sparked a flurry of takeover activity in the rail sector with the French group C3D launching a hostile £326m bid for Go-Ahead.

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