The revamped service from London to Scotland hopes to revive the luxury and glamour of overnight train travel
On Sunday evening, the longest passenger train on Britain’s mainland rail network will pull out of Euston and head for the Scottish Lowlands. Several hundred customers, in 16 coach-and-fours, will be transported overnight with eight carriages arriving in Glasgow and eight in Edinburgh on Monday morning.
This is a regular, nightly service. But tonight’s Caledonian Sleepertrip will be different: travellers will be able to journey in doubled beds, use en-suite toilets, eat fine Highland food, enjoy modern air conditioning, and experience a wide range of whiskies in the train’s Club Car.
After two years’ postpone, the much vaunted refit of the Scottish sleeper train will take to the rails: first with this week’s refurbished Lowlander services to Glasgow and Edinburgh and then, in June, with the Highlander services to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William.
” Once travellers set foot on the train, they are going to experience Scotland’s best, from luxury toiletries to good food and drink ,” said Ryan Flaherty, managing director of Caledonian Sleeper.
” We are aiming to create a luxury hotel experience. After all, we couldn’t add any more coaches to the service because 16 is the upper limit for Euston’s longest platform- stimulating the Caledonian Sleeper train the longest in the UK. So instead, we went for quality not quantity .”
It has cost PS150m to build 75 new coach-and-fours, a remarkable change in fortunes for Scotland’s oft-threatened sleeper services. Once the acme of romance, overnight train traveling- which featured in so many books and movies, from John Buchan’s The 39 Steps to Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest – dwindled in the latter half of the 20 th century thanks to cheap air travel, and came close to extinction in the UK.
In 1995, it took a court order to halt British Rail from objective its sleeper service to Fort William, one of the world’s most beautiful rail lines; the London-Stranraer sleeper was axed in 1990; and Britain’s only other sleeper service- from London to Penzance- came near to close a few years later.
Since then, the Scottish sleeper service has limped on using increasingly decrepit carriages with sticky carpets and malfunctioning air conditioner, experiences made worse when travellers procured themselves sharing sleeping cabins with heavy smokers determined to flout develops’ strict no smoking policies or with cabin partners who urinated in their communal washing basin in the night. In another case, quoted by David Meara in his volume Anglo-Scottish Sleepers , one girl awoke to find, on her pillow, a set of false teeth that had fallen from the gaping mouth of the stranger in the bunk above.
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