Serco has been selected by Transport Scotland to manage and operate the newÂ and prestigious Caledonian Sleeper franchise.
The franchise, which is worth up to Â£800m over the 15-year contract period, beginsÂ in April 2015 and will see Serco manage all aspects of the Sleeper service includingÂ marketing, sales, the on-train hospitality service, vehicle maintenance and theÂ provision of facilities at stations for Sleeper passengers. The franchise has beenÂ split from the main ScotRail franchise to meet Transport Scotland’s vision ofÂ transforming the Sleeper service into a truly emblematic and guest focused serviceÂ for passengers travelling between Scotland and England.
Combining Serco’s extensiveÂ transport and tourism experience with the expertise of leading Scottish hotelÂ business Inverlochy Castle Management International (ICMI) and Michelin-starred chefÂ Albert Roux OBE KFO, Serco plans to promote and support Scottish enterprise byÂ sourcing local products and produce from small and medium-sized businesses.
A fleet of new carriages will be introduced in 2018 which include a range of newÂ features; ensuite berths, Pod flatbeds – used for the first time in rail, and aÂ brasserie-style Club Car. Â£100m will be invested inÂ the new fleet which is part funded by a Â£60m capital grant from Scottish Ministers. Passengers will also benefit from a new website to bookÂ their tickets and will be offered a much broader range of fares, earlier boarding ofÂ trains and the ability to manage their journey virtually.
Recently, passengers trying to book the popular Bargain Berths, priced from Â£19 by booking ahead, have been frustrated by the new website which buries the bargain berth fares amongst all the others.
Asked whether these would continue and how they would be promoted, a spokesman told us, “I’m afraid I cannot comment on the current fares as I don’t know enough about them. What I can tell you is that we will be focusing on improving the customerÂ experience and providing good value for money for the customer. We are going toÂ modernise the ticket system and providing passengers with a greater range of fareÂ options. Given we are in direct competition with the airlines and other modes ofÂ transport will need to provide a competitive offering. Overall, prices will remainÂ roughly in line with what they are today.”
Jamie Ross, Business Development Director for Serco’s Transport business said: “Serco has a strong track record in running transport operations all overÂ the world from the Dubai Metro and Northern Rail, the UK’s largest passenger railÂ franchise, to the Great Southern Railway in Australia and NorthLink Ferries inÂ Scotland. We are looking forward to transforming the iconic and prestigiousÂ Caledonian Sleeper service into an outstanding and world class experience forÂ passengers.”
Norbert Lieder, Managing Director of ICMI, said: “The Caledonian Sleeper is anÂ under-used asset for Scotland’s business and leisure travellers. We have worked withÂ Serco to bring our knowledge of running luxury hotels in Scotland to the SleeperÂ customer experience with a focus on interior design, catering and service. “We lookÂ forward to developing what will become a world-class leisure destination in itself,Â bringing significant benefit to Scotland’s economy.”