It was launched with fanfare six weeks ago between London Euston, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
But since then, reports have emerged that passengers have encountered teething issues when travelling on the new Caledonian Sleeper, which features standards never before seen in this country.
Judging by reports I have received in recent days, the teething problems are not yet sorted.
These range from understaffing in the bar car to a lack of water or poor water pressure in the compartments.
There have been complaints about the train arriving into the station from the depot. This was probably because staff were working hard to fix the faults before the train entered service. But mainline stations are not ideal places to wait late at night, so one can understand passengers’ feelings.
One Dutch passenger (and the company wants to attract international travellers) told me today: “There was no water in multiple cars and you could not use the ensuite shower and toilet.
“But the train staff were friendly and helpful. On arrival in Glasgow I was given a token to use the shower and promised a 50 per cent refund. I recognised that the bar car was understaffed. I found the console lighting too bright and the bed too narrow.”
Another passenger said it seemed “staff were used to the old way of doing things,” but added that “it’s clear from the compartment fixtures and fittings they did not try to do things on the cheap.”
Staffing seems to be an issue. Said one customer, “service in the bar car is too slow. It was alright when it was just us [two people] and one family member. But as soon as it filled up service was ridiculous.
“It took 25 minutes to get attention and when we did we just wanted to pay and go to bed. Other customers just left without ordering. Not the guy’s fault – it’s understaffed.
“Caledonian Sleeper markets a hotel on wheels but right now it’s Fawlty Towers.”
It may depend on where one’s compartment is located (in the middle of the carriage or over the bogies), but there have also been complaints about the ride quality.
“Overall the room is great, a huge improvement [on the 40-year-old carriages], but the ride quality is not. It jars over every set of points which the Mk3 [the old stock] did not,” one passenger told me.
Note that these teething problems apply only to the new rolling stock. I am sure many if not most customers are perfectly satisfied.
According to The Scotsman there could be further problems ahead for both Serco (the train’s operator) and the train’s customers.
Staff are to be balloted on strike action because of their working conditions on the new trains.
RMT’s regional organiser Gordon Martin told The Scotsman: “The introduction of the new rolling stock has caused a lot of stress among the workforce.”
The Scotsman reports that “management were trying to introduce new working practices on the new trains which were causing stress and affecting the mental health of staff.”
Assuming the ballot does go ahead it will take several weeks to complete. And then the union would have to give one week’s notice of any strike action.
Update: Following on from the problems we reported above, a northbound train (new rolling stock) had to be terminated at Stafford. All passengers then had to continue the journey to Edinburgh and Glasgow by bus.
Caledonian Sleeper told Business Traveller: “The Lowland service from London to Glasgow/Edinburgh was terminated at Stafford […] due to technical issues.
“Once the service was terminated, we arranged for road transport to take guests to Glasgow while alternative train services were also available from Crewe.”
Several other services were cancelled as a result.
The BBC reports that customers were offered either a full refund or alternative coach transport.
Caledonian Sleeper has not yet responded to a request for comment on the reported issues with the new rolling stock.