Flat-out from Glasgow to London on the sleeper bus

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IT MAY not provide quite the luxury of a rock star's tour bus, but it could give passengers more slumber than the usual semi-reclined seat.

Britain's first scheduled sleeper coach service was unveiled yesterday by Scottish transport giant Stagecoach for its Glasgow-London Megabus route.

The overnight service will be provided by single-decker articulated "bendy" buses with 24 bunks, stacked three high.

Curtains will screen each bunk, but it is expected passengers will sleep in their clothes in the absence of space to change into their pyjamas. However, the berths do have reading lights.

The sleeper coaches are the latest innovation from Perth-based Stagecoach, which launched a luxury coach service between Scottish cities a year ago and pioneered discount coach travel with Megabus's 1 fares.

The Glasgow-London route was chosen because it is Megabus's busiest overnight service.

Trials of the sleeper start on Friday, with scheduled services beginning on 5 September.

Experts welcomed the "exciting" new service but questioned whether the initial fares, of up to 40.50 single, would stay so low.

For that price, passengers get a duvet, pillow and blanket, along with toothbrush, toothpaste, bottled water, eye mask, free wi-fi and free hot drinks and snacks.The coaches, which have a toilet, will accommodate 24 passengers, who will have a seat as well as a bed for flexibility during the eight-hour journey.

Two drivers will travel on board, swapping at motorway services near Birmingham, the only stop.

Gavin Booth, the Edinburgh-based former chairman of passenger watchdog Bus Users UK, said: "This is a fascinating concept and one that is new to the UK coach market. Passengers looking to save time and money have enjoyed comfortable overnight coach services between Scotland and London for more than 80 years, but always in reclining seats.

"The idea of a proper sleeper coach with berths is an exciting one and bus users will welcome yet another innovative approach from Stagecoach."

Gareth Evans, editor of Coach & Bus Week magazine, said: "It's a logical development of the 'band bus' concept and typical of Stagecoach, which has a strong reputation for innovation. However, the economics of it may be open to debate."

A spokesman for ScotRail, which runs overnight Scotland-London trains, said: "Our Caledonian Sleepers continue to show strong performance."

Stagecoach Group chief executive Sir Brian Souter said: "We've already seen growing demand for our night-time megabus.com journeys. The new sleeper services will offer extra comfort and facilities, but still at excellent value-for-money prices."