It’s all change for the Caledonian Sleeper that connects London Euston overnight with five Scottish termini: Edinburgh, Glasgow for the lowland sleeper and Fort William, Aberdeen, Inverness for the Highland sleeper.
On 31 March 2015, Serco Caledonian Sleepers Limited took over the operation of the Caledonian Sleeper as an independent franchise and I was on board one of the first journeys to report.
I made the journey from Glasgow to London Euston, a decade ago and was impressed by the cosiness and speed of the service; though I have to say that staff performance was memorable for all the wrong reasons. They went through the motion with bored detachment which flicked to a somewhat manic pace on arrival.
As a result, I was hurried out off the carriage, in the early hours of the morning, onto an eerily deserted platform, with half a croissant in my mouth, unkempt hair and bags strapped the wrong way up. On the other hand, the iconic Caledonian Sleeper train service between Fort William in the Scottish Highlands and London was named as one of the best six railway adventures in the world.
Which was it to be with the new service: Sweet dreams or nightmare? our train adventure started at the carriage door with welcoming staff dressed to impress. Alan Moore of Glasgow fashion-house ten30 designed the new uniform using Harris tweed to introduce a unique tartan. Each colour represents a different destination on the train’s journey. The grey for the Granite City of Aberdeen, sky blue for Inverness, a vibrant green to depict Glasgow deep violet and cobalt blue for Edinburgh, dark red for Fort William and stripes of red and white to depict London and the two countries connected by the Caledonian Sleeper.
It’s not only a change of clothes; the new Caledonian Sleeper is working with Scottish partners from interiors via food and drink to technology to showcase Scottish products and services. The menu has been transformed to take advantage of Scotland’s produce. So it was with great anticipation that we ordered porridge and Venison sausages for breakfast, not on the same tray, I haste to add.
New carriages have not arrived yet. In fact, the promised 72 state of the art carriages, a service fit for the 21st century, won’t be in service for another two to three years. As a prelude to their arrival, you get a nice Arran aromatics sleep-over kit with shower gel and all, though no means to use any of it just yet.
For the time being each compartment is equipped with the traditional narrow bed a sink and a communicating door in first class or bunk beds, Hitchcock’s North by North-West style, in standard class. Serco promised improvements include en-suite berths, WiFi, ‘pod flatbeds’ and a brasserie-style club car.
First class carriages felt roomy, bed linen soft and fresh and it wasn’t long before after laying my head on the pillow sprayed with aromatics that I joined the land of nod. If you opt to try out the service for pleasure as opposed to going from A to B, there is something to be said about travelling south. As when going north the carriages split in the early hours of the morning breaking up your night which doesn’t happen the other way.
Awakened by a gentle tap on the door, breakfast was served with a smile by the on-board steward. Coffee, Creamy Highland Porridge with Caithness honey were perfectly acceptable. As for the long anticipated full Highland breakfast, I was reliably informed that, “It was not….full or fine” the reason for this “outrage” was that, “Half the venison sausage was missing”. We were still discussing the missing banger as we alighted at Glasgow central. Now wishing we had added the Highland journey and super-glued our noses to the window to awe at the stunning scenery.
The refreshed Caledonian Sleeper is definitely an improvement. The planning, expertise and focus on hospitality has started to kick in. One of the best things about the new service is the staff and of course nothing beats getting all snug in fresh linen knowing that next time you’ll open your eyes you will have arrived at your destination.
I want to travel on the Caledonian Sleeper how much does it cost?
London to Edinburgh & Glasgow
1st class 1-bed sleeper from £141.90 Standard class sole occupancy from £100.60 Standard class one bed in shared 2 bed sleeper £58.50 Reclining seat from £23.90
London to Inverness, Aberdeen, Fort William
1st class 1-bed sleeper from £152.10 Standard class sole occupancy from £108.30 Standard class one bed in shared 2 bed sleeper £66.30 Reclining seat from £34.10
Full details at .www.sleeper.scot