Monopoly key for rail regulator

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The Independent Online
The main role of the rail regulator, who will be a key player in the industry once privatisation starts in a year's time, is to counter the effects of monopoly, writes Christian Wolmar.

He is not, like other regulators in the privatised industries, primarily concerned with prices. Instead, his focus is competition and ensuring that both passengers and rail companies do not suffer because of monopolies within the industry.

While sometimes this may involve protecting the passenger, at other times he will be looking at the interests of train operators. Railtrack is a monopoly supplier of track and infra-structure and therefore he will try to ensure it does not abuse this position.

James Ballingall, who heads the rail privatisation team with City solicitors Theodore Goddard, said: "He isn't there just to help the passenger. He may act in a way which can be for or against the interests of passengers."

This is well illustrated by the row over the 294 core stations put forward in yesterday's consultation paper. Mr Swift's paper argues it is too expensive to continue the present arrangement of having over 1,300 stations where broadly most tickets are available. But clearly, from the passengers' point of view, this is highly desirable.