The UK' secondary competition regulator, the Office of Fair Trading, has opened the way for a new free London newspaper.

The watchdog has finally ruled - after a two year investigation - that Associated Newspapers' exclusive 24-hour distribution rights in the capital's subway stations "prevented competing publishers from distributing a free evening newspaper to London commuters."

Associated, which publishes the free morning daily Metro and the paid-for Evening Standard, has been deprived of its afternoon and evening distribution slots but will retain its exclusive morning rights.

The contract for a new paper will be put out to tender by Transport for London, which runs the city's stations. Potential bidders include Richard Desmond's Express Newspapers, which has long threatened to publish a free afternoon daily to challenge the Evening Standard if Associated's distribution monopoly is broken [WAMN 14-Jan-05].

Other bidders for the contract might include Rupert Murdoch's News International group and the Guardian Media Group.

Associated says it pays around £2.6 million ($4.8m, €3.7m) a year for the distribution rights and provides another £2m of free advertising in Metro for the London Underground system.

London mayor Ken Livingstone has pledged that the cash from the new contract will be reinvested in the capital's transport infrastructure.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff