Ad description

A page on the Cross Country Trains website,, for their First Class service, seen on 20 November 2023, featured the headline “First Class, Sit back, relax and enjoy complimentary refreshments”. The text underneath stated “Complimentary food and drink – You’ll receive complimentary food and drink on most of our First Class services, keeping you well refreshed until you reach your destination.”

The text “complimentary food and drink” hyperlinked to a page headed “First Class Train Food and Drink” which included the First Class menu and more information on the food and drink offering, including “An at-seat service of complimentary non-alcoholic drinks and snacks is available throughout the day for all First Class customers […] In addition to drinks and snacks, customers on longer journeys can choose from a range of complimentary sandwiches […] An overview of where catering is available can be found by downloading our route map (PDF). To check a specific service, view detailed timetable information and services with catering provision are highlighted in darker shading.” The route map highlighted one line as having “no catering” (Reading to Guildford), while the rest of the routes were marked as having “catering available between 0600 and 2000” or “catering available on selected services”.


Two complainants, who frequently travelled on the First Class service but did not receive complimentary food and drink, challenged whether the ad was misleading.


XC Trains Ltd t/a Cross Country Trains stated that the period leading up to the complainants seeing the ad (September to November 2023) was marked by exceptional disruption to their normal operations, due to several factors. These included nine days of industrial actions which affected their resourcing. Additionally, four storms caused the imposition of blanket speed restrictions and flooding on many parts of their network. This had caused closures and residual disruption with trains and on-board crew being displaced.

They provided summary information relating to their Voyager routes (which operated on most of their long-distance services) from September to November 2023. The information showed how many services were scheduled to run, and how many of those were scheduled to run with full catering coverage, partial catering coverage or no catering coverage. It showed they planned to offer catering, including First Class food and drink, on between 70% and 78% of those services, with slight variations depending on the day of the week. Of the Monday to Friday Voyager services 73% were scheduled to operate with catering, compared to 70% on Saturday services and 78% on Sunday services.

Cross Country Trains highlighted that the messaging on their website referenced that their First Class offering was subject to availability. However, they recognised that there was scope to improve the clarity of the messaging and implemented some changes to their website to illustrate some of the limitations of their catering offering.



The ASA considered that the ad positioned complimentary food and drink as a key part of Cross Country Trains’ First Class offering, with “Sit back, relax, and enjoy complimentary refreshments” appearing in the heading of the webpage that described the different benefits of the First Class service. That page linked to a page headed “First Class Train Food and Drink” where further details of the complimentary offering were described: that an at-seat service of food and drinks was “available throughout the day”; and that in addition to drinks and snacks customers could choose from a range of sandwiches for longer journeys. We acknowledged that text underneath those claims stated "*All items and offers listed are subject to availability, may change or may be withdrawn at any time”. Two specific routes were referenced where “a reduced selection of drinks and snacks will be available on trains where catering is provided”. However, we considered that this was not sufficient to counteract the overall impression that complimentary food and drink would be available on all but a few First Class services.

The information provided by Cross Country Trains was based on data relating to the total number of Voyager services that were scheduled to run between September and November 2023 and out of those, how many were scheduled to run with full, partial or no catering. While we understood that there was exceptional disruption over that period, we did not receive data detailing how many services actually ran in accordance with that schedule, or how it was affected by the disruption. It was therefore not possible to determine the impact of that disruption and whether the frequency of their First Class catering offering was actually in line with the scheduled services.

Furthermore, we noted that based on the information provided, from September to November 2023 only 73% of their total Monday to Friday Voyager services were scheduled to operate with catering, with 70% on Saturdays and 78% on Sundays. We understood this information covered routes which according to the route map had “catering available between 0600 and 2000”, but it did not detail the times of each of the services. It was therefore not possible to determine whether the services scheduled to operate with partial or no catering accorded with the limitations to availability set out in the route map. Notwithstanding that, we considered that the scheduled rate of between 70% and 78% of services offering catering was insufficient to substantiate the overall impression of the ad that “complimentary food and drink” would be available on all but a few First Class services.

We acknowledged that Cross Country Trains had made amendments to their website, but for the reasons stated above, we concluded that the claim “complimentary food and drink” was misleading and therefore breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading Advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.9 (Qualification).


The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told XC Trains Ltd t/a Cross Country Trains not to use the claim “complimentary food and drink” unless they held adequate evidence to substantiate the claim.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

3.1     3.7     3.9    

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