Serco selected to run new Caledonian Sleeper franchise

Serco has been selected by Transport Scotland to manage and operate the new and prestigious Caledonian Sleeper franchise.

The franchise, which is worth up to £800m over the 15-year contract period, begins in April 2015 and will see Serco manage all aspects of the Sleeper service including marketing, sales, the on-train hospitality service, vehicle maintenance and the provision of facilities at stations for Sleeper passengers. The franchise has been split from the main ScotRail franchise to meet Transport Scotland’s vision of transforming the Sleeper service into a truly emblematic and guest focused service for passengers travelling between Scotland and England.

Combining Serco’s extensive transport and tourism experience with the expertise of leading Scottish hotel business Inverlochy Castle Management International (ICMI) and Michelin-starred chef Albert Roux OBE KFO, Serco plans to promote and support Scottish enterprise by 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 new features; ensuite berths, Pod flatbeds – used for the first time in rail, and a brasserie-style Club Car. £100m will be invested in the new fleet which is part funded by a £60m capital grant from Scottish Ministers. Passengers will also benefit from a new website to book their tickets and will be offered a much broader range of fares, earlier boarding of trains and the ability to manage their journey virtually.

Recently, passengers trying to book the popular Bargain Berths, priced from £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 customer experience and providing good value for money for the customer. We are going to modernise the ticket system and providing passengers with a greater range of fare options. Given we are in direct competition with the airlines and other modes of transport will need to provide a competitive offering. Overall, prices will remain 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 over the world from the Dubai Metro and Northern Rail, the UK’s largest passenger rail franchise, to the Great Southern Railway in Australia and NorthLink Ferries in Scotland. We are looking forward to transforming the iconic and prestigious Caledonian Sleeper service into an outstanding and world class experience for passengers.”

Norbert Lieder, Managing Director of ICMI, said: “The Caledonian Sleeper is an under-used asset for Scotland’s business and leisure travellers. We have worked with Serco to bring our knowledge of running luxury hotels in Scotland to the Sleeper customer experience with a focus on interior design, catering and service. “We look forward to developing what will become a world-class leisure destination in itself, bringing significant benefit to Scotland’s economy.”

About Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.
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