Published: 22nd April 2015
Commuters using Glasgow Central, Edinburgh Waverly and London Euston may have seen some dark liveried locomotives sporting an antler type logo in the last few weeks are perhaps wondering what they represent.
These midnight teal liveried locomotives, some dating back to the 1960s, are being used on the Anglo-Scottish sleeper services which have now commenced operating as a mini-franchise. They used to be operated under the First Scotrail franchise but now Transport Scotland has invested £75m in a new fleet of sleeping cars costing a total of £150million to be delivered in the next three years.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon helped launch the new Caledonian Sleeper train franchise at Inverness which when the new carriages are delivered, will transform the sleeper services.
The new sleeper operator is Serco who has chosen a new its midnight teal base colour and distinctive white stag antler motif as its identity carried on the trains. Ms Sturgeon met the award-winning Scottish design team at Inverness. They are creating the luxurious new interiors and uniforms, passenger lounges and the new trains along with some of the staff who passengers are promised, will turn the Caledonian Sleeper from a rail journey into a hotel on wheels.
“When the Scottish Government set the specification for the refranchising of the Caledonian Sleeper service, we were clear that it had to become so much more than a commuter rail trip for those travelling between Scotland and London.
“We knew that the routes through Scotland already offered a spectacular backdrop, but we wanted to see the journey become a destination in itself and take a larger tourism role in promoting Scotland.
“Serco’s plans promise to bring all of this, as well as provide benefits for the small and medium-sized Scottish businesses up and down the country who will be involved in supplying the new service. Their commitment to qualification-level training for staff and investment in the service for the next 15 years is also to be welcomed.
“A £150 million fleet of new Sleeper trains arrive in 2018, and passengers can begin to enjoy the new catering offering that will showcase the best of Scottish food and drink as soon as the new franchisee takes over the service from next week.”
A new Guest Service Centre for Caledonian Sleeper passengers was opened by the First Minister at Inverness station has created 20 new jobs and safeguarded others. The lounge facility has soft furnishings and shower facilities for the use of arriving passengers from the south.
A total of 75 carriages were ordered in March from Spanish manufacturer Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) which will form the four sleeper services from 2018. These will upgrade the overnight sleeping car service offering Cradle Seats, Pod Flatbeds, Berths and En-Suite Berths along with a Brasserie style Club Car for dining. The total cost of the new fleet is over £150million, part funded by a £60million capital grant from Scottish Ministers.
Rupert Soames, Serco Group Chief Executive Officer, said: “Today marks a new start for the Sleeper service, which we believe has huge potential. As a regular user of the service, I know that for business and pleasure it is both an efficient and an enjoyable way of travelling between London and Scotland, allowing you to have whole day’s extra work or play on each return visit.”
“Serco is well on the way to transforming the Sleeper into a superb service using our expertise of delivering high quality transport services around the world. From the 31 March our guests will see the service get better and better, with a new booking website, branding, uniforms and a menu that showcases the best in Scottish food and drink.”
The new franchise has brought the return to main line service several preserved electric locomotives which had seen little work apart from overhead line ice patrols. Although the main services are scheduled to be operated by four refurbished Class 92 locomotives provided by GB Railfreight, a subsidiary of Groupe Eurotunnel, lack of availability has brought Class 87 No. 87002 Royal Sovereign into regular use in Mid-April.
Class 86 No. 86401 is under renovation at UK Rail Leasing in Leicester and will be used, alongside Class 86 No. 86101 on stock movements between Euston and Wembley carriage depot. These electrics are being leased to Serco and operated by GBRF from the Electric Traction Limited (ETL).
Class 67 diesels are being used on the non-electrified routes north of Edinburgh to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William until such time as six re-engined Class 73 electro-diesel locomotives are introduced following overhaul at Brush in Loughborough. These are over 50 years old and are still playing a vital part on todays’ railways and look likely to do so for another decade at least.