Anger after Caledonian Sleeper service allows sale of alcohol but not food

A Caledonian Sleeper train at Edinburgh Waverley Station.
A Caledonian Sleeper train at Edinburgh Waverley Station.
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Caledonian Sleeper managers have been accused of “absolutely losing the plot” for serving drinks but no food on an Edinburgh-London service because they were short-staffed.

The same night, lack of staff also left passengers unable to buy any food or drink on the 12-hour service between Inverness and London.

The latest problems for the overnight trains follow a series of faults with new carriages and staff voting overwhelmingly for strike action.

Operator Serco revealed last week the service made a £3 million loss in the year to March despite £23m of Scottish Government funding.

Fergus McCallum, who uses the Sleeper weekly, said he had been dumbfounded at being unable get food on the southbound Sleeper from Edinburgh on Sunday night.

He said: “Staff announcing they are overworked won’t sell any food between Edinburgh and London but are still selling booze. They have absolutely lost the plot from a customer focus point of view.

“The train has families and kids, so they will deal with short staffing by dropping food on an eight-hour journey but continue selling alcohol.

“It’s subsidised by the Scottish taxpayer, but let’s not feed the kids of visitors and Scottish families food but keep flogging wine! The management are incompetent. They do not appear to have applied any common sense.

“The new trains are a massive step forward, but managers should have made sure food was available, and if necessary shut the bar instead.”

Breakfast was served in the morning as usual.

On the Inverness-London Sleeper, passenger Gillon Johnstone said people weren’t told until the train had set off that last-minute staff sickness meant no food or drink could be served.

He said: “There was no apology and a lot of unhappy people of all ages on that train.”

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) voted by 89-7 to strike over “intolerable” working pressure on the new fleet, which was introduced on the routes between Edinburgh, Glasgow and London in April.

RMT Scotland organiser Gordon Martin said a “productive” meeting had since been held with Serco and there were no plans to order action at this stage.

The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said the catering problem was an “operational matter” that was for Serco to comment on.

Ryan Flaherty, Serco’s managing director for Caledonian Sleeper, said: “Due to some short-notice staff absences, we were unfortunately not able to provide our usual evening food and drink options in the club car on some recent services.

“Where possible, we contacted guests in advance to notify them of this and we apologise to anyone who was inconvenienced.”