Two vital rail services linking Britons with mainland Europe - and the rest of the world - have been rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The ASA blasted Eurostar’s adverts touting tickets “from as little as £29” for failing to state they had to be booked in advance by a minimum of six weeks.
Embattled operator Govia Thameslink Railway, meanwhile, has been told to alter its Gatwick Express ads promoting 30-minute travel from central London to the Sussex hub on the basis too few trains were arriving at Gatwick within the allotted time.
Eurostar said on the date the online ad was seen (January 24), there were 5,070 £29 London-Paris fares for travel between March 6 and June 8, although this was not stated in the ad.
Responding to the complaint, Eurostar said it felt customers would “not expect to find the lead-in £29 fare available for departures within the immediate six weeks” and would instead “expect this fare to be available for bookings made further in advance”.
The ASA ruled on the basis Eurostar hadn’t qualified the need for advance booking, consumers would understand the claim to mean £29 fares would be available from the date of booking onward.
The complaint against Gatwick Express centred around a poster ad for the service promising non-stop journeys from Victoria station (to Gatwick) “in half an hour, every 15 minutes” and a web ad stating “our trains run every 15 minutes, taking you between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport in just 30 minutes”.
The poster ad was qualified with smaller text stating the claim was during normal, timetabled service, with journey times and frequency subject to planned engineering works.
Two complainants challenged Govia over whether the duration time claims in both ads were misleading and could be substantiated.
In its response, Gatwick Express provided data showing 79% of scheduled services between April 30, 2017, and May 26, 2018, arrived on time.
It said unforeseen exceptions such as unplanned engineering works, infrastructure failure and human intervention (such as illness or trespass) all contributed, as did staff sickness or statutory staff absence due to operational incidents.
The complaint was upheld, with the ASA stating: “While we acknowledged consumers would appreciate train services were occasionally subject to unforeseeable delays, we nevertheless considered consumers would expect Gatwick Express achieve the stated journey time barring exceptional or unforeseeable circumstances outside of their control.
“We understood at the time the ad appeared, the Gatwick Express timetable scheduled trains between London Victoria and Gatwick airport with a journey time of 30 minutes. The performance results showed 79.1% of planned Gatwick Express train services arrived at their final destination on time between.
“We noted of the 20.1% delayed services, the majority were delayed due to reasons such as staff sickness and technical/signalling faults.”
The ASA additionally concluded “a significant proportion of services were delayed for reasons that were within Gatwick Express’ control.”