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The 4th Annual Scottish Region Rail Event - "The Caledonian Sleepers" by Mr. Willie Black, ScotRail Sleeper Services Manager: Meeting of Tuesday 2 November 2004 in Edinburgh.

Mr. Willie Black, ScotRail Sleeper Services Manager addressing the Scottish Region meeting on the Sleeper services.d

Mr. Willie Black, ScotRail Sleeper Services Manager addressing the Scottish Region meeting on the Sleeper services.

© John G. Fender 2011

Each night, First Scotrail sleeper services serve 46 Stations throughout the UK, enabling tourists to save a day and businessmen to reach meetings without an early-morning flight. The organization of the sleeper services has a number of interesting facets that present the operator, First Scotrail, with some unique challenges in the railway industry and Mr. Black gave the audience an insight to these. The services are part of the First Scotrail franchise that runs for the next 7 years.

To provide the service, First Scotrail needs 10 locomotives, provided by EWS, with 22 drivers; 48 coaches with 23 conductors and a host of other ancillary services to provide the service. These other services are often, from a passengers point of view, "behind the scenes" and include catering, cleaning and laundry services. Getting all of this together in the right place at the right time is a marvel of organization and there are 34 dedicated staff working to make this happen.

Each night, there are a total of 864 beds available and there are three types of coach used on the services, comprising sleeper coaches with a pantry (SLEP), a sleeper coach with facilities for disabled passengers (SLED), complying with the requirements to the Disability Discrimination Act, and the seated coaches comprising of lounge and club class vehicles. Onboard catering is provided by Rail Gourmet and four laundries provide clean bedding daily.

The full fleet consists of 53 vehicles and all are maintained at Inverness, requiring the train formations to be rotated around the network to enable the maintenance to be carried out. Daytime maintenance is also carried out at Wembly, Polmadie, Aberdeen and at Fort William, where there is an EWS fitter.

Currently locomotives consist of Class 90, operating south of Edinburgh and Glasgow and Class 67 locomotives up to Inverness and Aberdeen. Class 37 locomotives are still used to Fort William, although class 67's may be introduced as Network Rail has approved the line for use by these locomotives.

There are plans to improve booking arrangements and a new computerized booking and reservation system will be introduced within the next year. This is aimed at making it easier for passengers to book the journeys that they want. Another area that is being improved is customer service and there is an ongoing staff training programme. One of the main causes for complaint is the need to divert trains, especially on the West Coast Main Line route due to the current upgrading programme, but this should diminish in the near future. For further information, visit the First Scotrail Website at

Report by John Fender.


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