Online auction for London free paper rights

The bidding process for the rights to publish a possible fourth free daily newspaper for London enters its final stage this week as newspaper companies battle for the rights in an eBay-style auction.

A Network Rail spokesman said a winning bid was due to be announced in mid-July, but now looks set to be delayed for a few weeks.

Network Rail has received tenders from publishers wishing to distribute a free paper at the 10 London railway stations it manages.

The tender process stemmed from the same OFT decision which has led Transport for London to also invite bids for a free newspaper to be distributed at its London Underground stations.

It is possible that the same paper could win both the Network Rail and Transport for London contracts. Alternatively, the deal could end up being split between two different publications.

Any new free newspapers in London will compete with the city's existing two free dailies, Metro and business title City AM.

Among the companies expected to bid are Associated Newspapers, News International and Express Newspapers.

Meanwhile, Transport for London, which manages London's Underground stations, is due to publish formal invitations to tender within the next month. A spokesman said that the process would take a few months after the tenders had been "gone through with a fine-toothed comb".

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