'Step into Scotland at Euston'

THE Scottish transport minister Keith Brown has announced the award of the new Caledonian Sleeper franchise to Serco. The winning bidder said it was 'thrilled'.

Serco will provide a new fleet of 72 sleeper vehicles worth more than £100 million, which will form four trains equipped with 'cradle' seats, as well as other seats which will be capable of being transformed into flatbeds. Business class cabins will have en-suite showers and toilets.

Transport Scotland said the service on board would become a showcase for produce suppliers north of the border, and that passengers in London 'will step into Scotland as they board the train'.

The new operation also includes partnerships with luxury hospitality firm Inverlochy Castle Management International and Michelin-starred chef Albert Roux, who will introduce 'hotel-style service'.

Although no details of fares can be expected yet, a wider range of ticket types is promised along with a 'more family-friendly ethos'.

Onboard staff will be offered training towards achieving an SVQ Level 3 qualification in hospitality. Serco is also committed to ensuring that 15 apprenticeships are created and apprentices trained during the first two years. After that a minimum of two apprentices will be supported in each calendar year during the contract term.

Transport Scotland added: "In short, this investment offers staff the opportunity to work for a Caledonian Sleeper with a secure future, new equipment, and ambitious growth plans and to be at the heart of delivering an emblematic Scottish train service of which they can be justifiably proud."

Transport minister Keith Brown told the Annual Rail Conference in Edinburgh: “The successful bidder has reflected the Scottish Government’s objectives to transform this iconic Scottish rail service. The new Caledonian Sleeper franchise will commence on 1 April 2015, and delivers investment in the service for the next fifteen years.

“The contract secures the future of the Caledonian Sleeper, ensuring it delivers a service fit for the 21st century and that it provides – as it has done for over 100 years – a unique, valued and high profile overnight service between Scotland and London.

“The Scottish Government’s commitment to investment has led to a real success. New trains will be built – designed especially for this service, and developed in consultation with passengers. The new fleet will be ready and on the tracks in 2018.

“The service will creatively reflect the attributes that visitors say best describe Scotland; a dramatic, human and enduring place.

“Key features will include - in the seated accommodation – modern comfortable cradle seats as well as innovative pod seats that can transform into flatbeds.

“The train will deliver new standard class sleeper berths. And in business berths there will be en-suite shower and toilet facilities – making it truly a hotel on wheels.

“The service will be easy to book and a pleasure to travel. This investment ensures an iconic Scottish railway journey will be available for all – from backpackers to business travellers. It will open the Sleeper up to a whole new audience. The train will showcase the best of Scotland’s food and drink and will benefit Scottish businesses from Shetland to Stranraer and from Stornoway to Stonehaven."

Jamie Ross, business development director for Serco’s transport business, said: “We are thrilled to have been selected to run the Caledonian Sleeper service and feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with Transport Scotland to achieve their aspirations for a truly emblematic service that encompasses the best of Scotland.

“Serco has a strong track record in running transport operations all over the world from the Dubai Metro and driverless Docklands Light Railway system to the Great Southern Railway in Australia and North Link 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.”

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