Livingstone wants Tube opened up for Desmond paper

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The Independent Online

The Mayor of London has intervened to back Richard Desmond in his feud with the owners of the Evening Standard over launching a new free newspaper for London.

The Mayor of London has intervened to back Richard Desmond in his feud with the owners of the Evening Standard over launching a new free newspaper for London.

Ken Livingstone said he would take action to ensure another paper can be distributed on the Tube in the afternoons. Under a deal signed six years ago, Mr Desmond's arch-rival, Associated Newspapers, owners of the Daily Mail and the Standard, have exclusive rights to the Tube.

Mr Desmond, proprietor of the Daily Express, Sunday Express and Daily Star, has lobbied ferociously to overturn Associated's monopoly for two years, saying he wanted to start a free afternoon paper but could not do so without access to the Tube. Associated used the Underground contract to launch Metro, a successful free morning paper for commuters.

Mr Desmond complained to the Office of Fair Trading in 2003 about the Metro contract and is awaiting its findings.

It is thought Mr Livingstone believes that the OFT has already decided to end the Metro's monopoly.

The mayor's Transport for London authority yesterday said that it would invite companies to bid for an afternoon contract, while the Metro would keep the morning slot.

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