LNER proposes regular Edinburgh-London by rail in four hours

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  • AMcWhirter

    In truth a four hour train journey Edinburgh-London still exists.

    I myself took, in the days of BR, a four hour ride Edinburgh-London with the 15:00 and, today, for anyone brave enough to catch the 05:40 from Waverley the journey with LNER also takes four hours.

    The difference here is that LNER will make the Edinburgh-London trip *every hour* with a four hour journey time.

    In fact the news emerged in Scotland last month and hasn’t been widely reported south of the border.

    Yesterday LNER’s communications boss Stuart Thomas repeated that LNER’s ambition remains the introduction of a four hour journey to London.

    Provided the DfT gives the green light the move would start with the December timetable change.

    LNER already operates every 30 mins of this prestigious route and so one train would be fast (with very limited stops) while the other would be multi-stop and so cater to those travellers boarding and joining at intermediate stops.

    Rail, both government-owned LNER and open access Lumo have already captured a large share of the market (air and rail) and have reversed the decline in rail passengers numbers of previous decades.

    Edinburgh Evening News dated January 8.


    4 users thanked author for this post.


    A little thread drift

    How good is the LNER sleeper service to Scotland in reality. I have read various reviews but have not formed an opinion as I found nothing that appears unbiased and yet detailed.

    I am wondering of anyone here has used the service and can give a qualified opinion of the offering ?

    I have long enjoyed sleeper train travel in Europe but now some years back and Mrs C is always up for a new experience. We are drawn to taking the sleeper the 13 hours to Fort William on our next UK trip hiring a car and taking a leisurely 4/5 day trip back south.

    The offering is enticing –
    Twin bunk beds with Glencraft mattresses Breakfast included Ensuite toilet and shower/ with washbasin Free sleep kit Free toiletries Station lounge access Priority Club Car access…WIFI Charging points Room service Keycard entry system Temperature control Dimmable lights etc

    Its not exactly cheap but worth it for the experience and the facilities read well – but does it deliver ?

    No Name

    Long term lurker, first time replier.

    The sleeper service is not run by LNER. However it has been taken over by the Scottish Government, I assume via another government holding company, as the private provider wasn’t performing well.

    I haven’t taken the new trains – mostly because the refresh meant they started targeting tourists and so jacked up the prices massively. It has become a bit uncompetitive with regards for business travel down to London from Edinburgh, seeing it’s now cheaper to take a plane and get a hotel room sometimes (even compared to LNER train) versus the sleeper. There are discounts for some railcards e.g. military, ex-military, government, so might make the prices more palatable.

    Can’t comment on the new beds, but they’re likely equivalent to the old beds and I liked the bunk beds – and didn’t mind sharing with a random person as the people who take the sleeper are usually not problematic. I would never take the seats. If you’re taking the other half as a one-off experience I think there’s the double bed which might be nice. Only other advice is that due to the “clunking” of the rails, the sleeper only works for relatively good sleepers – if you’re a light sleeper it might not be a good night.

    Going up north the trip will be worthwhile in spring / summer – you get to Edinburgh I think 6 in the morning from Euston – and then up north after that are great views will be stunning. If you get a room, you’ll be guaranteed space in the dining room, so great for watching the scenery go by. The drive back down will be nice if you’re going for a leisurely few days drive, and there’s a fair bit of scenery / touristy stuff to do. I personally would go the Inverness route up, but depends on what you want to see otherwise.

    As a one-off trip, think. it’s worth spending the cash on it. Would book early though, and check if hire car is easy at the other end. Another note is in summer time the likelihood of track works should hopefully be minimum so shouldn’t delay / cancel the train.

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    Jimmy McNabb

    As has been pointed out, it’s not LNER, rather it’s branded as ‘Caledonian Sleeper’. Current ownership is Transport Scotland, i.e. Scottish Government. I’ve used it between Glasgow and London and personally I love it. Sure it’s not cheap, but as airports have become shopping malls with bad fast food options, and airlines have engaged in the race to the bottom (and I say this as someone with status who still flies a lot), the sleeper service manages for me to still evoke the magic of travel. But if you’re going to do it, do it properly – get a decent cabin. Board early and grab a drink in the bar. The view of the sun coming up over Rannoch Moor from the train is supposedly incredible.


    did not British Rail run sub 4 hours on this route? looks like the privatised railway is catching up


    Indeed BR did have a four hour journey alistairNicoll.

    As I mentioned in my first posting above I travelled Edinburgh-London in the final days of British Rail. The 15:00 departure from Waverley was scheduled to make the journey to London in four hours.

    The difference between then (I travelled around 1995) and now is that there were only a couple of trains scheduled to take four hours.

    LNER’s plan is to have hourly trains with a four hour journey time.

    The other train (LNER operates two trains an hour on this route) would make intermediate stops and, as today, would probably take 30 or 45 mins longer.

    Today there is a single LNER service taking four hours but it means departing Edinburgh at 05:40. It stops once, at Newcastle, where many travellers join.

    There is no four hour train, currently, between London and Edinburgh.


    Hello cwoodward,

    If you can spare 30 mins or less I recommend this objective YouTube by Mark Swain of Let’s Make a Trip. It covers London-Fort William.

    This is a very recent video and, at the beginning, Mark covers the Caledonian Sleeper lounge which has just opened at London Euston – see Hannah’s report today on the News pages.

    Previously customers had to use the Avanti lounge (which dates back to Virgin Trains days) but this new facility is located away from the main concourse and as Mark says “it’s half-way down platform one.”

    I have written many news pieces re Cal Sleeper and some teething issues *may* still exist.

    That was Mark’s experience as you will see in the video.

    One highlight (besides the Highland views in the morning) is the Club Car with its Scottish specialities. It is popular with international visitors.

    At the time Mark made this trip it is out of season and the train appeared lightly loaded.


    Avanti also run to EDI on the WEST coast main line, which I use boarding at Stafford. It’s well worth the ride as just north of Carlisle it swings hard right over the hills – the veiws are wonderfull. However the First Classs Lounge at EDI has been taken over by LNER and not now available to Avanti First Class ticket holders. Why they can’t have a joint use agreement I don’t know.

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    Caledonian Sleeper is a good service, I travelled Euston-Edinburgh-Euston in November and really enjoyed the experience. We travelled in a Club Room, and actually found it quite comfortable and managed to sleep right the way through to Carstairs about 45 minutes before arrival into Edinburgh. The cabins are not huge but for two adults with hand luggage only they are fine, we had our dog with us and he was more than happy on the floor all night long. The lounge car was comfortable for a couple of drinks before bed and breakfast in the morning, but space is tight so if you dont get in quick you’ll likely not get a table.

    The lounge in Euston is nice, although its a bit small especially earlier in the evening before the Highland train leaves. I found the offering a little meagre compared to the price tag. Fly BA Club Europe for £149 and you have the Club Lounge, with food and drinks, take the Caledonian Sleeper for £375 and you get some Irn Bru, tea & coffee and some shortbread – although you do get breakfast in the morning on the train. There is the LNER lounge in Edinburgh, but it was closed when we travelled.

    The service does seem popular, with lots of dates selling out well in advance, I know of many companies with London and Scottish offices that are now using this instead of flying to be more sustainable and not having to pay a night’s hotel accommodation either side of meetings. On both our journeys all of the Double, Club and Classic rooms were booked – which as I say made it difficult to get a table in the onboard lounge car.

    The only watch out is that if you are staying over, then arriving at 7am means a bit of a wait for check-in at your hotel!

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    Thanks Alex for the excellent suggestion re the YOUTUBE by Mark Swain which provided us with a helpful overview.

    My comments are that is that overall all looks decent but prone to service failure and lacking the panache of the better European sleepers.

    This thought lead me to thinking – why are the ‘hotel’ aspects of the sleepers not contracted out to those with expertise in the area hoteliers and dual branded ?
    UK Rail companies are so clearly lacking in this area even with a( properly managed) the hard product that looks fit for purpose.

    We are unfortunately left with the thought that as a one-time experience for us it the experience appears to be something of a lottery with deficiencies that with simple business strategies could be fixed almost overnight.

    I see significant money making tourist potential side-lined through the lack of focus and simple management skill.

    “The Hilton LNER Highland Experience”

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    Re the sleeper service – I first used it in the late 60s and have experienced the 3 types of rolling stock since then. The latest is the best with en suite but it has been spoiled since Covid. In a solo Club room the upper bunk used to be folded away giving a much more spacious cabin. Since the beginning of the pandemic the top bunk has remained down even for solo occupancy. I asked Caley Sleeper why this was and was told it was to avoid staff having to lower and stow away the bunk depending on use. When one is paying £300+ for single occupancy it is a pain having to squirm into bed (especially at my age) past the ladder which says “do not remove”. On several occasions I have bashed my back and head against the upper berth when rising from sitting on the lower bunk. At that price this is a cost saving too far and detracts from an otherwise good service.


    Didn’t GNER have a once daily sub-4hr service in the mid-2000s? I think it was something like 3:56.


    Whereas Cal Sleeper can be trouble-free, as readers above have noted, there *may* be teething issues some years after the CAF rolling stock entered service. (CAF is a Spanish train manufacturer).

    There have also been instances when Cal Sleeper was unable to run owing to strikes on the rail network, weather conditions in Scotland, rail engineering works etc etc.

    I understand Cal Sleeper does compensate travellers when it is unable to deliver the service expected for those booking the sleeper accommodation – although things can and do change.

    Last year The Scotsman reported Serco saying that, since in began operating Cal Sleeper, the service had lost £69 million.

    Serco asked to be excused seven years early from its 15-year franchise and that’s when the Scottish Gov’t took over.



    MartinJ – You may be correct. I can’t myself remember.

    However during the time GNER held the franchise Sea Containers chairman James Sherwood announced that GNER wanted to buy a couple of tilting trains to reduce the journey time to 3 hrs 30 mins.

    But these trains were never ordered.

    The issue with today’s ECML is that it has become busier over the years and to operate a regular 4 hour journey is possible (today) only with improvements to track and signalling equipment.

    Some of the latter was carried out over a four day period last weekend which meant the ECML was closed between Kings Cross and Peterborough.

    Some of you may have read about the chaos that ensued as many travellers chose to use EMR from adjacent StPancras whose trains simply couldn’t cope with demand.


    Unfortunately the improved ECML train service has been postponed.

    Railway press reporting today that Network Rail (who manages rail infrastructue) says there are “too many outstanding issues” for the new timetable to take effect in December 2024.


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