Real Time Train Information

On 17 November 2009 we concluded our investigation under the Competition Act 1998 into the conduct of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and its subsidiary National Rail Enquiries (NRE) in the provision of Real Time Train Information (RTTI) through its ownership of the 'Darwin' database.

We found that, on the basis of the available evidence, ATOC's conduct had not amounted to an infringement of Chapter II of the Competition Act 1998 or Article 102 of the European Treaty. Critical to this conclusion was that we found no evidence that ATOC's conduct in granting access to Darwin had prevented a new product from coming to market or hampered the emergence of new technology.

Notwithstanding these findings, ATOC has total control over the supply of RTTI and as a result, to a very great extent, over what the future market will look like in terms of what products and services consumers will ultimately enjoy. This in turn means that ATOC has a special responsibility to avoid allowing its market power to distort the market it supplies so that consumers' interests are not prejudiced.

In the light of this unique position we explained in our conclusions that we believed that it would be important for ATOC to publish a Code of Practice which set out the criteria against which ATOC assesses applications. The purpose of the Code would be to:

  • introduce transparency into an area where there is significant market power in the hands of one party and, therefore, a responsibility on that party to demonstrate that it has processes in place not to abuse that position; and
  • set out a behavioural framework against which all future conduct can be assessed.

NRE's Code published on 23 April 2010 is an important first step in improving transparency around access to real time train information data, helping businesses to understand what to expect in their dealings with NRE and what NRE will expect from them.

During development of the Code, a number of people expressed concerns to us about whether the Code went far enough and how it would work in practice. We invited NRE to make changes to the Code or to provide explanations as to how the Code will work in practice (see the letters below).

The revised Code and the associated explanations do not necessarily yet provide all the assurances which potential users of the Code ideally would want to see. We believe, however, that the best test of the Code will be in its use. On this basis, NRE has agreed to keep the Code under review in the light of experience.

We will monitor the Code and will ask for views on how it has worked in a years' time. At that time we will review the case for action under licences or the Competition Act. We will not hesitate to act where we consider a company's behaviour is harming passengers.

Further information