Passengers will finally be able to take brand new Caledonian Sleeper trains to and from the Highlands next month - a year after their scheduled start.
The £150 million fleet makes its debut on the Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen to London routes on Sunday 13 October, The Scotsman has learned.
The news came as operator Serco announced all Sleeper services would be cancelled this coming Sunday and Monday night as a strike called by the Rail Maritime and Transport union was confirmed. The brand new trains were originally due to have been introduced last year, but manufacturing and design delays put back their launch on the Edinburgh and Glasgow to London route until April.
In June, plans for them to enter service on the three “Highlander” routes were postponed until at least this month after a series of problems plagued the “Lowlander” services.
Transport Scotland, which is in charge of the franchise, described the postponement as “simply unacceptable”. It came after passengers had booked rooms on the trains.
Faults included the wrong type of bleach being used to clean the drainage system on the trains, causing significant damage to pipework connecting the showers and toilets.
Caledonian Sleeper managing director Ryan Flaherty said: “We are pleased to confirm the new carriages will be introduced on the Highland service on 13 October.
“The postponement of the introduction of the new carriages since the summer has allowed Caf, the train manufacturer, to complete the work required on the remaining rolling stock to ensure they can be accepted into service.
“The time has also been used to carry out retrofit work on the first 32 of the new carriages with new pipework to correct the water corrosion problems that were initially encountered.
“We are pleased with the progress that has been made.”
However, some passengers remained sceptical.
Fergus McCallum, from Pitlochry, said: “I currently travel on both services every month and the old trains are far more reliable. Are they sure they want to introduce the new ones before they have ironed out the bugs because the Highlander is more complex, involving three trains meeting up.
“The Lowlander has two or three stops that are staffed, as opposed to potentially 30 plus unstaffed stations on the Highlander.”