CMA probes FirstGroup’s West Coast rail franchise win

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said on Friday it is investigating the award of the West Coast Partnership rail franchise to Aberdeen-based FirstGroup and Italy’s TrenItalia. 

TrenItalia UK and First Rail secured the rail franchise that links London, Manchester and Glasgow last month.

FirstGroup already operates the Great Western, South Western and TransPennine Express franchises. 

The investigation, which follows the European Commission’s decision to refer the case to the United Kingdom, will consider whether the award of the rail franchise could lead to competition concerns, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said. 

TrenItalia and FirstGroup were not immediately available for comment. 

The award of the West Coast Mainline contract to a joint venture 70% owned by FirstGroup and 30% by TrenItalia marked the end of Virgin Group’s involvement with UK railways after more than 20 years. 

Virgin’s West Coast partner Stagecoach was disqualified from bidding for the new contract after it did not comply with rules over pension funding.

Stagecoach has challenged the ban.