Train test: Overnight sensation?

Caledonian Sleeper’s new Mk5 stock has rarely been out of the headlines since it was introduced. Ben Jones takes a ride on this new generation of Spanish-built overnight stock to see if it delivers on its promises of a quality hotel experience.

Having been in decline for decades, killed off by indifference, variable quality, high operating costs and the advent of budget airlines, overnight trains seem to be on the cusp of a surprising renaissance in Europe

As climate change becomes an increasingly high-profile issue, more and more travellers are looking for convenient alternatives to short-haul flights. 

The 23.50 London-Glasgow/Edinburgh prepares for departure from Euston late on June 17, with No. 92010 at the head of the 16-coach train of Mk5 stock. PAUL SMITH

Overnight trains offer the tempting combination of a night’s sleep and several hundred miles of travel for the cost of a hotel room. They also avoid an alarm call in the middle of the night to drive to an airport at an uncivilised hour for an early flight. 

In the UK, the relatively short distances between major cities meant that overnight services were cut back to just two main routes by the late-1980s – London to Cornwall and the Anglo-Scottish trains serving lowland Scotland and the Highlands. 

Club Car seating is arranged in convivial booths for groups and individual stools for solo passengers. PAUL SMITH

Once part of the ScotRail franchise, the latter have been operated as a separate entity since 2015, branded ‘Caledonian Sleeper’ (CS) and managed by Serco on behalf of the Scottish Government. 

A major commitment for the new franchise was the replacement of the CS sleeper fleet, which consisted of ex-BR Mk2 day coaches from the 1970s and Mk3 sleepers dating from the early-1980s.

Club Twin cabin with two beds set up. These cabins also feature an en suite wet room with shower and toilet.

Immediately after winning the franchise, Serco awarded Spanish train builder CAF a £150million contract to supply 75 vehicles of five types, including sleeping cars, seated coaches and lounge cars – a perennially popular feature of these services. 

The order comprises 40 sleeping cars with six en suite luxury cabins and four cabins without en suite facilities (Nos. 15301-340), 14 sleeping cars with two fully accessible cabins (one with a double bed and one with a foldable upper bed), two cabins with en suite facilities, showers and double beds and two cabins with foldable upper berths, plus two shower rooms (Nos. 15201-14), 10 ‘brasserie’ style Club Cars with bar and lounge (Nos. 15101-110) and 11 seated cars with brake accommodation (Nos. 15001-011).

Read more and view more images in the July 2019 issue of The RM – on sale now!

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