Caledonian Sleeper delays new trains on Highland route
They are now likely to be introduced in September, the company has said.
Caledonian Sleeper is to delay the launch of its new trains on the Highland service to support another route.
The company said the trains, which feature carriages with double beds, will now probably be introduced in September on the Highland route between London and Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William.
The latest set of eight new carriages, which are due to be accepted into service in the next few days, will be diverted to support the lowland route between London, Glasgow and Edinburgh, which the company said is experiencing high levels of demand.
Our team is working closely with the manufacturers to get the new Highland carriages ready as soon as possible and we are looking forward to launching them on the Highland service once CAF has proved their readiness Ryan Flaherty, Serco Caledonian Sleeper
Caledonian Sleeper said the change will improve the reliability and resilience of the lowland service and enable the company to maintain a slightly higher capacity on the Highland route over the holiday period.
The new fleet, built at a cost of £150 million, launched at the end of April and had been due to be rolled out on the Highland route over the ensuing weeks.
Ryan Flaherty, Serco’s managing director at Caledonian Sleeper, said: “We are disappointed to be announcing this further delay but it is undoubtedly the correct decision and will allow us to improve the reliability and resilience of the Lowlander fleet and maintain capacity on the Highland route.
“While we are keen to introduce our new trains on the Highland route as soon as we can, our priority must be delivering a reliable service on the lowland route and then make sure that each new carriage on the Highland route is ready to welcome guests and deliver a true Caledonian Sleeper experience.
“Our team is working closely with the manufacturers to get the new Highland carriages ready as soon as possible and we are looking forward to launching them on the Highland service once CAF has proved their readiness.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The introduction of new trains often present significant challenges, however, this latest delay is quite simply unacceptable.
“Given we are fast approaching the height of the tourist season, it is disappointing that many customers are as yet unable to fully enjoy the benefits of the new on-board facilities, particularly as bookings have increased and feedback has been positive where the customer experience reaches the standards we expect.
“While the Caledonian Sleeper team are working to correct train faults, the manufacturer CAF’s inability to supply sufficient suitable trains leaves no other option than for service entry to be postponed.
“The Highlander service will continue to run with existing trains until this this is resolved.”
Accommodation on the trains ranges from new comfort seats to rooms with double beds and en suites – a first in the history of Caledonian Sleeper.
Other new features on the trains include a hotel-style keycard entry system, charging panels and Wi-Fi throughout.
Caledonian Sleeper said the delay will give CAF, the manufacturer, more time to fulfil its responsibilities and complete the work required on the remaining new carriages to ensure that they can be accepted into service for the Highland route.
Guests who have already booked to travel on a Highland service from July 7/8 onwards who still wish to travel and have booked one of the new accommodation options will be refunded the difference in cost.
If they no longer wish to go they will be offered a full refund or the opportunity to rebook at a later date.
The fleet has been part funded by capital grants from Scottish ministers and the UK Government.