Sleeper train passengers suffer worst train performance in UK

Delays and cancellations on the Caledonian Sleeper rose last autumn. Picture: Greg Macvean
Delays and cancellations on the Caledonian Sleeper rose last autumn. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Passengers on the Caledonian Sleeper suffered the worst train performance in Britain for five years last autumn.

The number of overnight cross-Border trains to be cancelled or significantly delayed also doubled between October and December compared to the previous three months.

Operator Serco, which took over the service a year ago, said they had been caused mainly by flooding in Carlisle and faults in some locomotives. A strike over safety also halted trains.

Nearly one in seven – 15 per cent – of sleeper trains did not run or arrived more than 30 minutes late in the last three months of the year, compared to 7 per cent between July and September.

The ScotRail figure for October-December was 3 per cent.

No breakdown of the latest figures from the Office of Rail and Road are yet available, but in the previous period, 4 per cent of sleeper trains were significantly late and 3 per cent did not run over either all or part of their routes.

The flooding closed the west coast main line, which the sleepers use, for two days in December after tracks were submerged under 7ft of water.

Serco has also had recurring problems with the type of electric locomotives it brought in to haul the trains on the line.

Several trains were also cancelled in the run up to Christmas when the Rail, Maritime and Transport union staged a strike over safety fears following a series of faults with Sleeper carriages, which are up to 40 years old.

The service operates between Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Fort William and London.

Watchdog Transport Focus urged affected passengers to claim compensation.

Passenger director David Sidebottom said: “Delays and cancellations are annoying and frustrating for passengers whenever they happen, but many may feel that this is one too many incidents.

“We encourage any passenger delayed to claim compensation to send a clear message to the rail industry.”

David Simpson, Caledonian Sleeper’s production and safety director, said: “During the third quarter of last year, some Caledonian Sleeper services were disrupted because of severe flooding.

“There were also some issues with the Class 92 locomotives and we quickly took steps to remove these from service for investigation, replacing them with Class 90s.

“We are working hard to make improvements, and in 2018 we will introduce brand new rolling stock to completely transform the Caledonian Sleeper experience.”