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See the luxurious new Caledonian Sleeper trains which launch in October

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We don’t really focus much on sleeper trains on Head for Points, although Rob is doing an 11 hour trip from Stockholm to Lapland at Easter which he may or may not write about!

In the UK the sleepers to Scotland have lost a lot of their appeal in recent years.  Let’s be honest, travelling to Scotland overnight on a very dated train with (possibly) uncomfortable mattresses and a stranger sharing your room doesn’t sound tempting.

This is why Serco has spent £100 million to buy 75 new more luxurious coaches for its Caledonian Sleeper trains which will be rolled out from October 2018.

The first carriages have reached Glasgow via the Channel Tunnel and looking at the pictures they are a great improvement over their predecessor from 1980.

There will be a range of accommodation with the cheapest seats being the Comfort Seats.

Those staying in Club Rooms or Suites can have dinner and drinks in the Club Car.

Suites, Club Rooms and Classic Rooms all come with an en suite bathroom and ‘bespoke mattresses’.

Here is a Club Room:

and a Classic Room:

Peter Strachan, Chairman, Serco Caledonian Sleeper, said: “We believe the new Caledonian Sleeper trains will truly set a new standard in overnight travel and we have worked closely with Transport Scotland on their development since taking over the franchise in 2015.”

Comfort Seats start from £45, Classic Rooms are from £85 per person, Club Rooms are from £125 per person and Suites will be priced from £200 per person.

The company has removed the option of booking a bed in a shared room unless you are booking with a friend or partner.  It isn’t clear if a single person will get a discount on a room designed for two.

Tickets will be available to book from next month on this website.  The new trains will initially operate on the ‘Lowlander’ route between London and Glasgow / Edinburgh.

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Comments

  1. As long as aviation fuel is not taxed, rail, the second most energy-efficient form of transport after cycling, will have its wheels pulled under it. Bravo for the the article! Lets have more.

    • Joseph Heenan says:

      Whilst aviation fuel tax (or lack thereof) is an issue, I don’t think it’s the only one.

      If I book well in advance I can get a reasonable choice of trains and planes at not dissimilar prices.

      If booking at short-ish notice the trains are always considerably more expensive. I’m fairly certain that’s not because they’re almost full.

      • guesswho2000 says:

        I’d say one of the issues is clearly the fact you can fly in 45 mins vs 4/5(?) hours on the train. Ok, ignoring the time spent at the airport. That said, I’ve always thought UK domestic mainland flights are a bit of an extravagance!

        However, having seen the new pics, I’d actually be tempted to use this (if I ever had a need to make that journey) – until now, I’d have driven it personally (ok, that takes a lot longer, but it’s purely a personal choice I’d take over public transport in general).

        • I have driven, taken the train and flown, all for different reasons. It’s very rare that I actually have a proper choice between modes of transport. Transporting 200kg of equipment? Drive. Day trip? Fly. Leisure trip not venturing out of the city? Train.

        • Oh dear that old arguement again…
          “That said, I’ve always thought UK domestic mainland flights are a bit of an extravagance!”

          Having flown between Inverness & Bristol and Aberdeen & London, I can confirm that I’ll always want to fly rather than attempt a ridiculously long and relatively expensive train journey.

        • “Domestic a bit of an extravagance”. You should see flights in Canada, where you can fly between cities less than an hours drive apart. Granted there is little in terms of rail connections but still amazes me there are several flights a day and therefore demand.

        • guesswho2000 says:

          I knew that’d stir something up ;oP for clarity, I’m not against them per se, I’m not an environmentalist and as someone who has taken status runs, which is basically flying for the sake of flying (ok, not entirely) I wouldn’t criticise anyone for choosing air travel over anything else. I can also see the benefit of them in certain scenarios (and I agree, rail doesn’t help itself with ridiculous pricing vs air travel sometimes).

          I’m generally only referring to short flights, rather than domestics in general – I live in Australia, I’m not driving from Melbourne to Perth, for example. But needs must I suppose, and @Canuck, fair enough, wasn’t aware of those, but there you have it!

  2. May Lim says:

    When I lived in London, I used to travel to Edinburgh & Glasgow for my clients’ audit on the sleeper train. Missed them

  3. Flytographer says:

    O/T – what’s the best Hilton propert in New York City and Chicago? I know Rob likes the Conrad in New York City.

    • Try the Bits article.

    • Michael C says:

      Not sure if it’s the style you want, but Rob recently mentioned the brand new Hilton Embassy Midtown, too.

    • Stayed in both Hilton Times Square and Hilton New York by central park. Both lovely but preferred the one near central park.

      In Chicago we stayed at The Drake …….very nice!

    • A couple of years ago, I stayed at the Hilton Times Sq and also a Garden Inn (maybe?) in the Fashion District.

      The latter was atrocious – room was small, way too noisy and breakfast was a pitiful experience (though, to be fair, they did offer a voucher to spend at a nearby deli if you didn’t want to pay for breakfast in the hotel).

      The Hilton at Times Sq was definitely the better of the two! Nothing spectacular, but the stay was pleasant enough…

      • Intentionally Blank says:

        Same here (re: fashion district). Hated it. Freezing whilst having breakfast too

  4. Very much looking forward to trying these 🙂 Prices look good when considering they buy you a day or save you a night in an hotel. It shoud be noted too that hotels even in Fort William and Inverness can be very expensive so a return sleeper journey from London could make great sense. Having no airport in Fort William and limited flights to Inverness adds to their appeal. Then there is the opportunity during much of the year to wake up during daylight hours to breakfast on the West Highland Line or the ride through Perthshire up to Inverness.

    • Flights aren’t that limited to Inverness. There are usually 4/5 a day from London, along with regional flights from Birmingham and Manchester.

      The first time I used the sleeper was back in 1992 when Stagecoach hired two coaches and added them to the back of the usual BR sleeper. It was one of the first privately operated rail services with Stagecoach Hostesses.

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/700000/images/_701118_stagecoachtrain300.jpg

      In was two old seated sleeper coaches with basic rebranding and Stagecoach employed Hostesses. Tickets were excrutiatingly difficult to buy – but it would give me a whole weekend in London for the cost of a single night in the Regent Palace Hotel. 🙂

      There has been considerable attriton of my use of the Sleeper over the years. Twenty years ago, I was on it at least once a month heading Southbound. There was something really quite special about standing on a Perthshire platform near midnight on a Sunday with snow blowing through waiting for the elderly diesel locomotive to roar into the station hauling the cozy sleeper coaches.

      Then there were the nights that you’d be standing there freezing your baws off due to delays. Or the Corporate Travel Agent would cock up the ticketing and get all confused with engineering changes that would push a 23:55 service on a Sunday night onto a 00:05 service on a Monday morning. Not forgetting the vicious shunting at Edinburgh that could throw you out of the bed or the “Sorry, we are very busy tonight, you’ll have to share”.

      I might give it a shot, but realistically, it’s just easier to fly (or drive).

      • Need an edit button…

      • Great story Andrew 🙂 A comment below asks why bother, you just answered… for the travel experience, I thought we were all supposed to be travel enthusiasts on here. I guess you can recall too the even earlier experiences on the first intercity stagecoach double deckers, those were the days!

        Good to hear that you have good choice of flights to London. I did not realise easyjet was 3-4 daily, an extra BA rotation would be good though.

        • BA start twice daily (evening flight) on some days from April.

        • Good to know but, given that, it seems a little idd that they have oushed the other flight a little later into the afternoon. I wasn’t too happy as it vut my exINV connection times but at least the reliabilith record is good.

  5. Noggins says:

    I just hope they put more investment into the daily cleaning routines too. The ‘old’ experience would have been greatly improved if you didn’t feel you were in such a dirty environment. Although sheets are clean, I grant you.

    • Lady London says:

      On trains the loos is the thing that is pretty much all the time a really negative experience.

  6. Just not sure why I would travel into London to get a 12 hour sleeper train when I could travel to London and get a sub 2 hour flight for 25% of the train cost.

    • Remember that when you are standing in the crush of the Piccadilly line for over an hour, instead of stepping off a train in Central London.

    • Because you can arrive in central London right at the start of the day fully refreshed, rather than either having to drag yourself to an airport at an early hour or missing most of the day. Or having to pay for a hotel in London the night before.

      Other than that, even on the other old trains, it’s generally considered a pleasant way to travel.

    • jarvester says:

      I’ll give you an example. I sometimes look after my kids in the evening and need to be in London first thing the next morning. I’d much rather put kids to bed, have dinner with my wife then get the improved train at 11pm, arriving at King’s X after sleeping through the night. The alternative is getting up at 4am to get in the car, park at the airport, get shuttle bus, go through security, catch a packed flight full of other zombies, then travel into central london and get to my meeting (possibly late). When doing the latter, my energy levels just drop off a cliff after lunch whilst if travelling by train I am a lot more productive

      • When I was a regular Edinburgh-London business traveller, I used the sleeper for a change of routine or if I had things in the evening in either city. You boarded at 2300 and were at KX or Waverley before 0800 after some sleep. Sure, I never slept that well on it but then a 4.45 start for a 6.30 flight isn’t great either.

        Was invaluable for a Fort William weekend too once, left the Fort early evening, food and a couple of drinks as we sailed across Rannoch Moor and still made Docklands for 0900 Monday! The look on the ticket inspectors face at Canary Wharf was priceless when I showed him my £250+ ticket with Zones 1-2 add-on to clear the barriers!

      • Intentionally Blank says:

        And you don’t get your bits and pieces fondled by random strangers

  7. BlueThroughCrimp says:

    Serco haven’t spent £100M.
    The funding has come from Holyrood, and Westminster.

  8. Oxonlad says:

    I’m a fan of long distance overnight rail travel but the Caledonian sleeper which I’ve used a few times doesn’t compare well with the likes of the Indian Pacific or Amtrak’s Californian Zephyr. The kids thought it was good fun sleeping on a train when they were younger but I dubbed it the ‘lack-of sleeper’. Too much stopping and shunting around in the night to get decent night’s kip. And don’t get trapped in the bar all night by someone looking for a drinking buddy!

    The lack of showering facilities was the worst feature. Once arrived at Euston to find the public showers closed. Fortunately the hotel I was staying in let me in early to have a shower otherwise I’d have gone to meetings un-scrubbed. Not nice.

    However, looking forward to giving the new rolling sock a try when it comes into service.

    • RussellH says:

      I have not taken one of the current (Mark 3) sleepers this century (the new sleepers are mark 5), but I am sure that the cabins were less cramped than the roomettes on the California Zephyr, which we took in April 2016. And I would very strongly recommend the California Zephyr as a truly amazing trip. But we were not prepared to risk the showers in the Amtrak sleepers – the condition of the track is such that you are going to be thrown around all over the place much of the time. USA track condition is generally poor, compared with Europe.

      It is the first five cars built that have just arrived, from Velim in the Czech Republic, where the initial testing has been done. They are currently undergoing staic tests here – eg. checking that when the various types of loco connect, all the various electrical connections also work correctly (normal for new trains is that they do not), a certain amount of tweaking needs to be done and the results fed back to the CAF plant in Spain where the rest are being built.

      The reason for starting the new service in October is deliberately not to do so during the summer peak. There will almost certainly be other things that “gang aglay” once the public is let loose on them, so best to do it as the demand starts to fall.

  9. Anthony Burns says:

    Have to say my experience of sleeper train travel has been good although I admit I have not used for ten years or so.
    These new carriages will certainly up the competition with flying as I have in recent years come to hate the ‘airport experience’ at places like Stansted.

    • RussellH says:

      Time was, so friends told me, that Stansted was brilliant. Only been there once myself, over ten years ago, and it was foul. Generally ‘airport experience’ varies inversely as the size, unless you can get priority security and a nice lounge, which, TBH, means that you miss out on the ‘airport experience’.
      🙂

  10. Jeremy I says:

    We’ve used the sleeper a few times to Inverness where we rent a car to drive over to Skye and have loved it every time. With a two together railcard the cost is very reasonable. The bar / dining carriage is dated but very romantic and the booze is cheap. Love it !

  11. As a Scot who has lived in London for the last 14 years, I have *never* taken the sleeper service – and its not without many attempts at trying.

    Every single time, without fail, that I try to book the sleeper, its excrutiatingly expensive often 3 to 4 times the cost of flying! One time, I wanted to go to a friends wedding in Inverness, £500 return on the sleeper, £120 on easyjet.

    I *WANT* to travel by train (I love flying, but the train can be a nice experience!).

    Yes; I do know Im esseentialy paying for a hotel room on wheels, but even then….it costs me £100 in diesel roundtrip….and even if I stay in a motel overnight, thats £150….its about the same to fly in general (or cheaper if you get tickets in a sale, etc).

    I wouldnt mind paying a little premium for using the service, but as someone who is paying this for himself and is not having a company/taxpayer pay for it, I just cannot justify double and more of flying or driving…..but I WANT TO DO IT…..and there in lies the problem….

    How many other folks are in the same situation as me ?

  12. Although I would like to try this, I would still prefer to fly
    I went to Edinburgh at the weekend form Luton Airport with my partner.

    £88 return. Hotel was £54 including breakfast, thats a total £142 for both of us.
    Much cheaper than a train with a bed and a lot of time saved.

    Turned up at the airport just an hour and a half before the flight, and within 3 hours of turning up at Luton airport, we were in our hotel in Edinburgh.

  13. Concerto says:

    Sleeper services in Europe are almost non existent these days, a real shame. In the not so distant past, I did Lausanne-Venice and Basel/Bern-Weimar getting there at 05h when I was at the Weimar opera house. That train went on to Prague and I hopped on it once at Weimar for a great day out in Prague (saw the original manuscripts of several Berthoven symphonies while there).

  14. Having done the Stockholm-Lapland route a few times by train, I can say it’s great value (though not as luxurious as the pics of the Caledonian here)

    • I agree, I was surprised how little it cost. Forgotten now but there are 4 of us and it was very modest for 11 hours in a cabin.

  15. Just got back from a trip on the Narvik-Stockholm sleeper (did Helsinki-Kolari last year) – it was brilliant. The cabins are for 3, so if there’s just two of you then you pay a reduced fee for the third berth and get the whole thing for yourself. Nice and spacious (moreso than the current sleepers in this country, and the Empire Builder roomette in the USA), a nice restaurant car (reindeer stew & mash anyone?), and decent toilets & showers.

  16. Michael Canning says:

    On first inspection without doubt this is an infinite improvement on the current carriages which are nothing short of a disgrace (as they’re dirty, tired and uncomfortable – so not great for sleeping!!!).

    I know price is driven by demand, but I think the current sleeper has been over-priced for years (esp. considering its condition) and it’s a shame the operator is trying to justify the raising of prices because of the new carriages – for the current prices you would be right to expect high standards and the operators been failing on this for years.

  17. There are so many issues / known problems with the existing sleeper that they have agreed printed compensation forms!!!

  18. IslandDweller says:

    Pedantry corner. Some new carriages are indeed in Glasgow for acceptance testing, but that’s not where those photos were taken. The carriages delivered are empty – they’ll return to Spain for final fit out before being re delivered. (Initial testing is all about gauge and coupling stuff)
    As for sharing with strangers. You’ll never do that with the new service – though choosing to share with someone you know who still be an option.
    The whole service is painfully loss making but money was allocated by the former coalition government to enable it to continue. At that time Danny Alexander was MP for Inverness and the late Charles Kennedy was MP for Lochaber (Fort William)

  19. Would love to read the sleeper journey to Lapland! Always wanted to something like this in Scandinavia!

    Also wasn’t there talk of another option of airline style seats that go flat? Or has that been abandoned?

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