Government agency Transport Scotland has thrown down the gauntlet to bidders for the Anglo-Scottish sleeper franchise, which commences in April 2015, by insisting that as soon as passengers board the train at London Euston they should feel that they are stepping foot in Scotland.
The authroity has said that everything from the food to the decor should be emblematic of the very best of Scotland.
The franchise winner will be expected to carve out a distinctive global brand, promoting the sleeper service as a “passport to Britain’s most dramatic scenery” and Transport Scotland has made it clear that it sees no reason why the train cannot become as iconic as the Orient Express.
The revamped Caledonian Sleeper will include en-suite toilets in business class berths, wi-fi and electricity supplies in every carriage along with secure luggage facilities for all passengers.
This will be the first time that the sleeper franchise has been split off from the main ScotRail franchise, illustrating the the Scottish government’s desire to see it run independently from the rest of the country’s rail network.
Three bidders have been shortlisted for the 15-year franchise, with FirstGroup, which currently operates the ScotRail franchise, Arriva and Serco all in the running.
Currently the longest passenger train in the UK, the Caledonian Sleeper runs six nights a week and carries 270,000 passengers annually, including newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark who uses it on a regular basis.
There was shock and outrage two years ago when it emerged that the possibility of scrapping the service, which runs at a £5 million loss, was being considered.
As well as investing in rolling stock the franchise winner will also have to provide showers for passengers at main stations along the route.
Report by Jonathan Webb
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