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John Taylor, competition and consumer affairs minister, has accepted the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) fi...
John Taylor, competition and consumer affairs minister, has accepted the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) finding that the acquisition by British Bus Plc of Arrowline (Travel) Limited (trading as Starline) does not and may not be expected to operate against the public interest.

Publishing the MMC report today, Mr Taylor said:

'I accept the MMC's conclusion. The MMC found that the merger between British Bus and Arrowline, a small, independent bus operator based at Knutsford in Cheshire, had resulted in some loss of competition for commercial services in the district of Macclesfield and some loss of competition in the provision of tendered services in parts of West Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

'The MMC also found that the detrimental effect on tendered services was, in most districts, likely to be largely offset by the strength of the potential competition. There were still sufficient operators in or near Trafford, Vale Royal, Crewe and Nantwich and Congleton to bid for tendered work to prevent British Bus from abusing its dominant position.

'The MMC considered that the situation in Macclesfield was more problematic. In this district the merger had created some detrimental effects on competition for the supply of both tendered and commercial services. On the commercial side, the MMC believed that any detriment arising from the merger was limited to the loss ofcompetition on a relatively small number of individual routes. On the tendered side, the average number of bids per tender had dropped as a result of the merger. There was still some scope for small operators to bid for contracts but this was not necessarily sufficient.

'The MMC found, however, that bus operations in Macclesfield represent only 12.5% of total bus operations in the area under investigation and that the merger would bring certain efficiency benefits and the prospect of increased competition in the Trafford district. The MMC therefore concluded that, on balance, the merger should be allowed to proceed. However, they noted that should the situation in the district of Macclesfield give rise to concern in the future, it would be possible for the Director General of Fair Trading to consider the powers available to him under the monopoly provisions of the competition legislation.'

-- British Bus Plc (British Bus) is part of the British Bus Group Limited. British Bus was founded by the executive management committee of the bus operating division of the Drawlane Transport Group plc in 1992. Drawlane had previously purchased a number of NBC companies and had a 25 per cent interest in National Express. British Bus operates in the North West, in North Wales, Northumberland, Kent and the London area. It has a total fleet of some 5,000 buses and is now the third largest bus operator in the UK.

-- Arrowline (Travel) Limited, trading as Starline, was a small company based at Knutsford in Cheshire and owned by Simon Fawcett. At the time of the merger it had a fleet of 41 public service vehicles and its operating area encompassed Knutsford, Northwich, Altrincham, Macclesfield and a number of routes in South Manchester. It was also involved in coaching activities particularly at Manchester airport.

-- Copies of the MMC report 'British Bus Plc and Arrowline (Travel) Limited: a report on the merger'. (Cm 3183) are available from HMSO, price £13.65.

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