The Competition Commission on Tuesday outlined measures to boost competition in the bus industry, making it easier for new entrants to gain a foothold and preventing existing operators from staking out territory or undermining rivals.

Twenty-five years after bus services were deregulated in the UK (excluding London and Northern Ireland), the ... proposals to open up the market will represent the biggest change in the industry since that time, the Competition Commission said in a statement.

The watchdog found that in many areas operators face little or no competition and that while there are 1,245 bus companies in England, Scotland and Wales carrying 2.9 billion passengers a year, Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach carried 70 percent of those passengers.

The best way to tackle the problem was to encourage increased competition, the commission said, proposing measures to prevent operators from destabilising smaller rivals and making it easier for competing firms to access bus stations.

(Reporting by Paul Hoskins; Editing by Paul Sandle)