The Anonymous Widower

Expanding The Scottish Sleeper

There is an article in Rail Magazine entitled New Destinations For Scottish Sleeper Trains?.

Oban and the Far North of Scotland are mentioned, as new destinations for the Caledonian Sleeper.

Oban

Oban station is on a branch of the West Highland Line to Fort William.

One of the attractions of Oban for the operator, is that it is a port.

  • Four ferries go to the offshore islands.
  • It would be so convenient to get off the Sleeper and then get on a ferry to your ultimate destination.
  • The Scottish diaspora would love it.

I suspect that Serco’s Marketing Department have the link to the ferries in mind.

Currently, Euston to Fort William takes twelve hours and forty minutes, with the train dividing into three portions at Edinburgh Waverley station.

To serve Oban, it would probably need the train to spin off an extra section which went to Oban.

At present it would appear, that you would get off the Caledonian Sleeper at Crianlarich at 0745, and wait until 1015  to catch the train to Oban.

If that is actually what happens, it’s not very passenger-friendly.

You can also get to Oban at the same time, by taking the sleeper to Glasgow and changing trains there.

As I suspect that the train operator; Serco are serious about getting more passengers to the Caledonian Sleeper, there would seem to be some ways to get passengers to Oban earlier in the morning, perhaps by timetabling an earlier train to Oban that meets the two sleeper trains better.

Once they knew that sufficient passengers were travelling between London and Oban, Serco could start to think about running a direct service.

But would it be a further split of the Highland service at Edinburgh or a split of the Lowland service at Glasgow?

The current frmation of the Highland Sleeper, is given in this section inWikipedia.

This is said in Wikipedia about the splitting off the train in Edinburgh.

The front two sleeping carriages are for Fort William, being combined at Edinburgh with a further two sitting carriages to make a four-vehicle formation. The middle portion of either six carriages is for Aberdeen, and the rear portion of eight carriages is for Inverness. Both the Aberdeen and Inverness portions usually convey one sitting and one lounge carriage each, with the rest being sleeping cars, all working through to/from London.

It might just be too complicated, to split the train for Oban at Edinburgh

The Far North

Serving the Far North Line to Wick and the intermediate stops may well be an ambition, but running a profitable service will surely have problems.

The sleeper takes eleven and a half hours to Inverness and the current local train takes four and a half hours between Inverness and Wick, which makes sixteen hours for the journey. That is just too long, when you can fly it in four hours.

The New Rolling Stock

The new rolling stock from CAF must be the key to improving the service for both the operator and passengers.

  • The current sleeper trains are not the fastest and are generally limited to 40 mph in the Highlands.
  • But even on the West Coast Main Line, the trains don’t go very quick, taking seven and a half hours for the journey, as opposed to four and a half for the fastest Virgins.
  • I would suspect that the new coaches will probably go faster and still give a good night’s sleep. Not that I have any complaints about the current sleepers.
  • Modern technology would probably improve the time to couple and uncouple the various sections of the trains.
  • The mix of carriages will give the operator more flexibility, with respect to the formation of trains.
  • Wikipedia has section on the new Mark 5 Coaches, which says there are 75 coaches of four types, arranged into four sixteen coach trains, with eleven spares.
  • As new trains and coaches attract interest in a train service, I would not be surprised to see the new coaches attracting more passengers to the Caledonian Sleeper.

Four trains is an interesting figure, as at present they only use two; one to the Lowland and one to the Highlands.

But for the first time in the thirty years since the original Mark 3 coaches were built, if the Caledonian Sleeper needs to increase their number of coaches, there will be a manufacturer, who will probably be happy to oblige.

Ladbrokes wouldn’t give me odds on CAF building new coarches for the Night Riviera.

European Services

The first two Eurostars to Paris leave at 0540 and 0701 and the first to Brussels at 0650. At present the sleeper from Glasgow gets in at 0707, but surely better timings between the two services would attract more passengers, who wanted to have a good night’s sleep and be in Paris or Brussels early.

I doubt there is any great demand for a direct sleeper service between Scotland and Paris or Brussels and the cost of the trains would be prohibitive.

But by interfacing the two services properly, there could be a market to be developed.

The new rolling stock with there more generous performance might mean that this is a lot easier.

Kings Cross

This article in Rail Magazine is entitled Sleeper MD Considers King’s Cross Potential.

Apparently, passenger feedback from when King’s Cross is used is very positive because of the station’s better connectivity.

I have this feeling that if they moved the Caledonian Sleeper to King’s Cross. during the rebuilding of Euston, that it would never go back.

Onward From The Sleeper Destinations

If you are coming south and arrive in London around seven in the morning, you have lots of modern, comfortable trains to go onward to your ultimate destination.

When I looked at Oban, it struck me that the connections to the sleeper, weren’t as good as say those in London to Bath, Bournemouth, Cardiff or Paris.

So perhaps one of the things that would help the current service is good onward connections in comfortable trains. Abellio Scotrail are committed to improving train services in Scotland, so they may be doing this.

Cnclusion

There is no doubt that the current Caledonian Sleeper is a valuable and much-loved service.  The fact that Serco are buying new carriages from CAF, is not an act of charity and must be because the company believes that they can improve the profitability of the service.

I believe that although eventually, there may be services to other destinations in Scotland, that in the meantime better onward connections may be a more cost-effective solution.

It also has to be said, if improved services work to Scotland, then they’d surely work between London and Cornwall.

May 24, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | ,

2 Comments »

  1. The snag with flying is that you usually fly into Edinburgh – from where I am anyway – and then you have to get to where you are going. My nephew lives in Lochinver, and has to somehow get to Lairg, and then get a local bus out to there. He came down for mum’s funeral, and the journey took an incredible length of time – he took a couple of days afterwards in Edinburgh to visit a friend, hence why he went through there and not Inverness. He did most of the journey by train, although I would have happily paid for a flight if he wanted to fly, the price was competitive despite the cheap fare he got.

    Comment by nosnikrapzil | May 24, 2016 | Reply

  2. I remember being on Crewe Station one late evening and, a train pulled into the platform labeled the “Orcadian”.

    Comment by rwbroomhall0 | January 9, 2017 | Reply


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