HS2 Ltd withdraw ‘misleading’ advert after complaint to Advertising Standards Authority.

HS2 Ltd have agreed to withdraw an advertisement for the HS2 project following a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, which claimed a video the quango produced was misleading.

Nineteen issues were raised in the original complaint brought by Camden resident Fran Heron, with the ASA taking HS2 Ltd to task over fifteen of them. Of the four issues not taken on, the ASA bizarrely said that it was alright for HS2 Ltd to say that ‘Rail travel has doubled’, as they did not specify the period over which this has happened. Instead of contesting the charge of false advertising, HS2 Ltd have agreed to withdraw the video, meaning the ASA will now not proceed with their investigation.

Issues raised in the complaint included these claims:

  • That HS2 is needed to ‘bypass clogged arteries’, despite Euston being the second quietest London terminus and the First Group WCML franchise bid document stating that there is quite a lot of spare capacity on this line.
  • HS2 would stimulate growth ‘around the UK’, despite the fact HS2 would at best suck economic activity to station sites at the expense of wider regions.
  • HS2 would deliver £2 for every £1 spent, despite the fact this is disputed by the National Audit Office, Public Accounts Committee and many others.
  • That HS2 will create homes, when the only current plan associated with HS2 concerning housing is to knock them down.
  • That HS2 would not be built at the expense of other transport projects, despite the fact it is required to take 44% of the entire rail budget.
  • Alternatives to HS2 do not deliver enough capacity, a statement which is again at odds with the findings of the National Audit Office.
  • That investing in alternatives would cause disruption to the existing network, whilst ignoring the disruption caused by HS2, such as the ten-year rebuild of Euston, or the need to move the M1 in two places.
  • Claiming that the UK does not have internal high-speed trains, when the internationally accepted definition of what constitutes as HSR is 124mph.
  • That adding 351 miles worth of railway to a current total of approximately 10,000 miles will ‘revitalise the network’.
  • That HS2 will create jobs, when apart from the actual construction of the railway, HS2 is expected only to ‘support’ jobs.
  • That HS2 will provide a £15bn annual boost to the economy, despite the fact these figures have been described by economists as having ‘no statistical basis’ and being ‘essentially made up’.

The Stop HS2 campaign has produced an edit of the video (embedded at the bottom of this page), detailing the points of the complaint, and whilst HS2 Ltd have withdrawn the original from their youtube channel, at time of writing, it is still available via the developers Vimeo channel.


Today, the Advertising Standards Authority have included High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd (trading as HS2 Ltd) in their list of ‘informally resolved cases‘, which states “After consideration by the ASA of complaints received, the following companies and organisations agreed to amend or withdraw advertising without the need for a formal investigation.” . This is the third time HS2 Ltd has agreed to amend or withdraw claims, and thus avoid having to defend itself following a complaint to the ASA, with the other cases being resolved on 29th May 2013 and 29th January 2014. Details can be found here

However, despite the fact HS2 Ltd did not refer the ASA to the Department for Transport, the HS2 Ltd press office have today claimed the animation had nothing to do with them, but was commissioned by the DfT. The DfT now claim they always intended to take the video down after a year because they had only bought the rights to the music for a year. This is despite the fact it is less than a year since the video was first published, it was removed a fortnight ago, before the complainant had received her letter from the ASA, and that it is still available to view via the developers’ channel.


Fran Heron, who brought the complaint said:

“The HS2 promotional animation was very engaging and cleverly drawn. The great pity is it was ram-jam full of deliberate distortions, gross exaggerations, statistical manipulation and fairy-tale narrative.  There was nothing new there though, as it bears all the hallmarks of a typical HS2 Ltd public relations disaster. HS2 Ltd keep throwing public money at conning the public, but the public are not conned.”

Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:

“It is clear that HS2 Ltd have decided to withdraw a grossly misleading advert rather than have the Advertising Standards Authority rule that they had produced a grossly misleading advert, and are now trying to come up with feeble excuses, despite this being the third time this has happened. This advert was just one in a long line of incidences where HS2 Ltd and the Government have been willing to suggest that things they have made up because they sound good are indeed facts. The reason HS2 Ltd have to make things up to make their project sound like a good idea is because there aren’t any real facts which support the project.”

The text of the original complaint can be downloaded at: https://stophs2.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/franasacomplaint.docx

2 comments to “HS2 Ltd withdraw ‘misleading’ advert after complaint to Advertising Standards Authority.”
  1. Pingback: STOP HS2 | The advert HS2 Ltd don’t want you to see

  2. Professors and Lords are very unsure of the ground. Mainly hunch claims and partial arguments.

    Would you spend so much on such uncertainties.

    Economic Affairs Committee – UK Parliament
    http://www.parliament.uk › … › All committees A-Z › Lords Select
    The Economic Affairs Committee is one of the five permanent investigative committees in the House of Lords and is charged with considering economic affairs. … Lords hear from transport academics on HS2 · Lords hear evidence on HFT and .

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