Advantages Unique, Grand, Comfortable, Good use of time
Disadvantages Reliability, Punctuality, Poor Lounges
The Caledonian Sleepers are run by First Scotrail after the past 7 years of National Express ownership and offer the unique experience of basically travelling by train to the other end of the UK while you sleep in a bed! Its not quite the Orient Express but it is still something you have to experience if you plan a trip to Scotland, or indeed fancy a trip to London for some sightseeing.One of the beauties of the service, especially heading south, is you arrive slap bang in the centre of the city / town you are visiting, and avoid all the hassle and expense of airport transfers, taxi's, trains etc. I mean, how much more into London do you want to get than Euston station!
National Express really worked hard to improve the sleepers with a number of innovations and cabin upgrades over the past 7 years, and they are now hugely popular as well as being a lot cheaper than before privatisation. The Sleepers were taken over by First Group in October 2004.It remains to be seem how the sleepers will fair under First Group - they have experience of running sleepers down in the South on England on the Great Western Franchise, and they are committed to improving reliability and punctuality on Scotrail. However, the proposed investment in the sleepers (£1 million compared to National Express £7 million) and the reputation First appear to be quickly gathering in Scotland in the press and among passengers for already failing to deliver on promised improvements as well as declining punctuality figures are of great concern to us regular users of all their services. One can only hope the Sleepers I have got used to dont suffer the same fate - Or I will start flying again!
If you are a tourist visiting Scotland then for the full Scottish Experience there is no other way to get here. For the locals, its a smart move of commuting up and down the country to get the most out of your day at your destination - let me explain.History -
The sleepers have suffered a lot in terms of reliability and punctuality in recent years and has marred their reputation - delays of 5 hours have not been unheard of and the press use the words breakdown-prone! First Group are introducing more reliable diesel locos onto the Far North services next year, which should help problems. There have been delays in introducing new locos because of weight restrictions and terrain on the West Highland Line. Network Rail have been desperately replacing track on the Fort William route to cope with the sleepers - the dividends of this should start to pay off soon. In the mean time, First have got engineers travelling on the trains and have stationed thunderbird locos at various vantage points along the journey (Carstairs, Carlisle, Preston) to reduce the impact of any breakdowns - This is known as International rescue! Again, that should at least help until the new stock arrives.The sleepers run in both directions every night except Saturday - But a local group call friends of the Far North Line are campaigning to get the Saturday night trains reinstated.
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