UK publisher Associated Newspapers has agreed to comply with regulators' demands that it give up its exclusive distribution rights on London's Underground rail network.

The move by the publisher of the Evening Standard and free morning daily Metro has opened the way for rivals to launch a free afternoon title aimed at commuters.

An investigation into the capital's newspapers was launched by the Office of Fair Trading nearly three years ago, which ruled in 2005 that Associated's rights in subway stations "prevented competing publishers from distributing a free evening newspaper to London commuters" [WAMN: 11-Apr-05].

Associated will keep its monopoly on morning distribution, but among competitors now jostling for position in the race to the evening launch are Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell, Rupert Murdoch's News International and Guardian Newspapers.

Transport for London, which runs the capital's public transport services, does not expect to issue the formal invitation to tender for the contract until the summer. It adds: "Any additional revenues ... will contribute to the upgrade of London's transport system."

Data sourced from Brand Republic (UK); additional content by WARC staff