West Midlands Bus Services Under Investigation

National Express West MidlandsI welcome the announcement from the Office of Fair Trading that local bus services, including those in the West Midlands, are to be referred to the Competition Commission.

I'm long been appalled at the consistent price rises from Travel West Midlands, now National Express West Midlands. It's now £1.70 for a single bus journey across Birmingham. Bearing this in mind, it's concerning that the West Midlands was excluded from the OFT’s analysis looking at the relationship between price and the level of market concentration, “because National Express did not consent for the Department for Transport to release its data in this area”.

Presumably now the Competition Commission are involved there will be an obligation on National Express to release the data.

In my eyes, the OFT's comments that “healthy competition” exists in the West Midlands is open to debate. On certain services, there is a genuine choice of providers, but other routes are dominated or solely operated by National Express West Midlands.

Many of those routes will be the subsidised Centro services operated by NEWM, but all this does is encourage people to buy the cheaper National Express only bus pass, instead of the general multi-operator bus pass, placing the competitors at a disadvantage.

I'll be watching this one with interest.

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