News

Caledonian Sleeper to acquire luxurious rolling stock

10 Feb 2015 by Alex McWhirter

At a time when overnight trains within mainland Europe are in decline, it's good to know they are flourishing in the UK.

Many sleeper trains inside Europe have been cut back in recent times (see news, August 2014). Those that remain face a bleak future as there are no plans to add new services or to acquire new rolling stock.

Here in the UK, funding from both our and the Scottish governments have secured the Caledonian Sleeper's future.

This service linking London Euston with Scotland is currently operated by Scotrail. But, from the end of March, the overnight trains will be handed over to Serco.

Serco today ordered 75 new coaches, including spares, from Spanish manufacturer CAF in a deal worth 200 million euros (around £150 million), according to railwaygazette.com.

The new trains, which will enter service in April 2018, are needed. Existing rolling stock dates back to the 1980s era of British Rail.

With no en suite facilities, like many of Europe's overnight trains, they don't meet the standards that today's passengers expect.

New stock will enable four 16-coach trains (two in either direction) to run between London Euston and both Glasgow and Edinburgh. From there, separate sections will continue to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William.

What will be different from existing sleeper trains, both here and in mainland Europe, is that these new coaches are designed for the modern age.

So instead of just having berths, without any toilets or showers, the new coaches will have separate grades of accommodation.

At the top end, there will be en suite facilities. Other accommodation will feature regular sleeping berths along with airline-style cradle seats and, even more revolutionary for rail travel, "pod flat-beds".

Existing trains have no proper catering. But the new ones will boast a brasserie club car.

The new Caledonian Sleeper will be better marketed to overseas visitors, especially business people and affluent leisure passengers seeking the highest standards of rail travel.

To make it easier to pre-plan, the advance booking period will be extended from three to 12 months. Again this is revolutionary for rail travel because throughout Europe most trains can only be booked a few months ahead.

The 12-month advance booking notice will be introduced to existing Caledonian Sleeper services effective April 1.

scotrail.co.uk/sleeper (Valid until March 31), sleeper.scot (available from March 31)

Alex McWhirter

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