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HS2 Ltd forced to withdraw advert after accuracy complaint

HS2 Ltd was forced to withdraw an advertisement promoting the project after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) agreed with a complaint that it was misleading.

The DfT says it “stands by” the information in the now-withdrawn video.

Camden resident and anti-HS2 campaigner Fran Heron made the complaint, raising 19 issues with the online animated promotional video.

The ASA agreed with 15 of these issues, which included claims that HS2 would stimulate growth around the UK, that it would deliver £2 for every £1 spent, and that the project would lead to homes being created.

Heron 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.”

The short film detailed the UK’s need for an improved transport service and described how HS2 would meet these needs.

HS2 Ltd agreed to withdraw the video, and it is no longer available on their website, meaning the ASA will now not proceed with their investigation.

The ASA has included HS2 Ltd in its 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.

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 ASA 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.”

When PSE asked HS2 Ltd for comment we were referred to the Department for Transport, who were the original commissioners of the video.

A DfT spokesman said: “We stand by the information provided in the footage. The case for HS2 is clear – it is a vital part of our long-term economic plan. By improving connectivity, freeing up space on our existing network, boosting local skills, generating tens of thousands of jobs and helping rebalance our economy, it will have a transformational effect on the UK and secure the country's future prosperity. The video was always going to be taken offline after a year as we only bought annual music rights to support the film.”

The withdrawn video is still available on the HS2 Ltd Vimeo page. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email


Gb   24/10/2014 at 17:19

Good for you Fran! Any fraudulent claims should be more widely publicised as such. I believe the money would be far better spent elsewhere on the railways, including resurecting the ex MR and GCR routes North to provide the extra capacity needed. Given the estimated cost of HS2, I guess there would plenty over to enhance the present network, including minor re-openings like Skipton - Colne (about a mere 12 miles) to provide another trans Pennine route and some medium size projects like Harrogate to Northallerton, thus putting the City of Ripon back on the railway map. I'll hazard a guess that Riponions would prefer this to having to drive to Leeds to catch an HS2.

Pedr Jarvis   24/10/2014 at 18:39

If you go to Milton Keynes Station ten minutes before your train is due, you are likely to see eight or ten trains go through in those ten minutes. The local service to London has been cut to make room for the container trains rushing past. The line is busy at night as well. We have no services such as we used to have to places like Aberystwyth or Blackpool because there is not time in the table for them. The line is full - we need more capacity, and whichever way it goes, HS2 seems essential. Gb, I think you will find HS2 uses part of the old GC route. Other parts are of course in use by other railways and so not available. I do not understand why the project is taking so long - delays cause extra expense - the sooner the suited meetings stop and the track is laid, the better many of us will be pleased.

Gb   30/10/2014 at 18:27

I suggest re-routing some of the London-Manchester trains to run from St Pancras to Stockport and Manchester via Derby and Leicester, etc., preferably run by East Midland Trains in competition with Virgin. This would free up some capacity on the WCML and provide a welcome return of direct trains between Manchester and Derby.

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