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First Great Western misleads passengers over who is paying for investment

13 May 2014

Britain's largest rail group was accused today of misleading millions of passengers over who is funding a £7.5 billion investment programme at First Great Western.

The TSSA rail union said a series of adverts on London's tube networks left the clear and mistaken impression that the company itself was paying under the headline "Building a Greater West".

It called the claim "bogus", pointing out it was in fact the taxpayer-through publicly owned Network Rail-who was footing the bill for the five year plan, part of NR's overall £38 billion spend on rail between 2014 and 2019.

Calling on the Advertising Standards Authority to ban the ads, General Secretary Manuel Cortes, said in a letter to the ASA.

"It is like Pete Best claiming he topped the charts with the Beatles, Tony Blair claiming he has at last found weapons of mass destruction in the Iraq desert or that Elvis is now working as a shelf stacker at Tesco's in Swindon."

He recalled that FGW seemed to be re-writing history in the series of glossy ads, failing to mention that walk on fares between London and Bristol have increased by 245% in the past 20 years and that the firm was dubbed Worst Great Western in 2007 for provoking the first commuter strike in rail history.

To: Advertising Standards Authority,
Mid City Plaza
71 High Holborn
London WC1V 6QZ
"Building A Greater West" - First Great Western
Dear Sir,
I am writing to make a formal complaint about a series of adverts which have been appearing on the London tube network over the past two months. Reading them, millions of passengers will have been left with the mistaken impression that the First Great Western train firm is investing £7.5 billion in improving its network.
It isn't. We the taxpayer, in the shape of publicly owned Network Rail, are in fact investing that money. It is part of a £38 billion five year investment programme that NR will make between April 2014 and April 2014.
But the tube traveller does not have time to read the very small print at the end of a series of moving images as he or she moves up and down the escalator. All they see after the opening image of Building A Greater West is the figure £7.5 billion being invested by the inheritors of Kingdom Brunel, FGW.
This is a bogus claim, akin to Pete Best claiming he topped the charts with The Beatles, Tony Blair claiming to have at last found weapons of mass destruction in the Iraq desert or that Elvis is now working as a shelf stacker in Tesco's in Swindon.
On its own web-site, under the ad headline Building A Greater West, FGW waits until the eleventh paragraph before coyly admitting-"with the help of a massive £7.5 billion from Network Rail, we're building a network you can rely on".
Armchair readers have time to read the advert in total. Tube travellers cannot and are therefore being mislead. They leave the station wrongly believing FGW is investing its money when, in truth, it is passengers money as taxpayers that is actually being invested.
We would ask you to order FGW to remove these misleading ads altogether or make it clear from the outset that its public money that is being invested in improving the network, not private. To provide an even fuller picture, FGW could also point out that a standard return from London to Bristol has increased by 245% since privatisation 20 years ago.
Manuel Cortes



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