Passengers kept awake by alarms in latest fault on troubled Caledonian Sleeper services

Caledonian Sleeper passengers denied showers, access to toilets or even coffee because of faults with its new trains are suffering a new nightmare – being woken by alarms in the middle of the night.
The Caledonian Sleeper. Picture: Andrew SmithThe Caledonian Sleeper. Picture: Andrew Smith
The Caledonian Sleeper. Picture: Andrew Smith

The seemingly endless list of problems to have emerged since the £150 million fleet was introduced by operator Serco in April has further lengthened due to its “advanced safety and notification system”.

This alert sounds in staff compartments at the end of each sleeping carriage every time the train is coupled and uncoupled en route. It has meant passengers in adjoining cabins being woken in Edinburgh at 4am when sections of the train bound for Aberdeen, Fort William and Inverness are uncoupled.

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Regular Sleeper user Fergus McCallum, who was travelling home from London to Pitlochry this week, told The Scotsman: “The carriages were parked in Edinburgh from 4am till 5am – I know because the staff alarm in my carriage and every carriage rang continuously the whole time.

The problems of the Sleeper.The problems of the Sleeper.
The problems of the Sleeper.

“I drew a short straw having the room next to the alarm, but an absolutely amazing staff member helped me relocate to the lounge car to escape the ringing.”

The problem appears to have been made worse by shunting delays. One source said: “Caledonian Sleeper is not managing the join and split at Waverley at all well. Even if all three southbound portions arrive on time at Waverley – a rarity – the join can over-run by up to 40 minutes and the train departs 40 or more minutes down.”

He said there were similar delays northbound.

A Sleeper source said: “The alarm is the on-board notification system, triggered when a guest presses the call button, or when the train is shunting.

“It turns off when an action is completed, but they’re looking into ways to tweak the software to reduce the volume so it doesn’t disturb guests.”

Graham Kelly, Serco’s guest experience director for Caledonian Sleeper, said: “As with all modern transport, we have an advanced safety and notification system. This fills a vital role in promptly alerting our on-board team to any service or safety matters.

“While this is crucial to the running of the train, we accept the notifications can, on occasion, cause disruption to nearby guests, and we are looking at ways to minimise noise intrusion.”

Operations director Magnus Conn added: “Our new trains are among the most technologically advanced in the UK and on occasion the shunting process can take longer than anticipated. We are striving to optimise this process.”

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