WHY THE CALEDONIAN SHOULD GO CONTINENTAL
The recent Scottish Government announcement that overnight Sleeper train services between Scotland and London will be a separate franchise from 2014 gave me déjà vu .
I used to be a regular on the Glasgow/London Sleeper, which I preferred to the “red eye” flight to Heathrow. I haven’t ridden the Sleeper for some time now, but the last time I did, it was evident that the quality of the service was in decline.
So it’s good that the UK and Scottish Governments have pooled £100 million to invest in a new generation of Caledonian Sleeper trains.
In May, Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown told Holyrood that current Sleeper users were being consulted on the detailed specifications for the new trains.
Apart from obvious improvements, such as en-suite shower facilities for each sleeper compartment and proper reclining seats for budget travellers, it’s vital in my view that the new trains are capable of travelling through the Channel Tunnel.
By all means, the Sleeper trains must continue to link Scotland to London, arriving there around 7:00am, but then they should carry on, through the Channel Tunnel to Brussels or Paris, arriving around 9:30am (our time).
Of course, Scotland will still need air links to Brussels and Paris, but there is a differentiated market which includes people who prefer the overnight train to the ‘plane for reasons of budget, environmentalism or even romance!
Some jobsworths will baulk at the security implications of UK and Continental passengers using the same train, but cross-border trains are commonplace in continental Europe so are clearly manageable.
And my déjà vu ? Well, back in the 1990’s, I had a sneaky peek at brand new trains intended to do just what I’m advocating here ; they were called “Night Star” trains (a companion brand to “Eurostar”).
But the proposed Night Star services were cancelled on the pretext that budget domestic air travel was here to stay (!) and £150 million of state-of-the-art trains were sold to Canadian railways at a knock-down price.
Now there’s a chance to right that wrong.
Bags I a late supper on an overnight train from Glasgow to Paris.
What about you?
Charlie Gordon 28 June 2012