Caledonian Sleeper

VT 390

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I used the sleeper in June last year to do a linear two day walk. I found the experience fine, but it is a very expensive way to travel. I did book first class so it was nearly £500 to get to Scotland and back for a weekend hiking, all my camping equipment and walking gear combined came to less than that. Sleeping was a bit intermittant outgoing but had a decent sleep coming back, probably because I had spent the previous day and a half walking 28 miles. This year I am planning a longer backpacking trip which involves first getting to Inverness. I would prefer to go by train but paying the sleeper prices or getting a daytime train, which when I recently checked for a couple of months in advance, cost £190 one way with no advance ticket available, I am coming to the conclusion that paying a little over £40 for an Easyjet flight from Gatwick to Inverness is the most sensible option. Even adding the cost of getting too/from the airports it is still less than half the price of the train. If we get within 12 weeks of late May (I will be travelling a few days before the second bank holiday weekend) and advance tickets are non-existant for Horsham to Inverness, I will very likely take a flight.
Have you looked at splitting the tickets (split ticketing) and buying some advanced tickets but anytime/off peak for other parts it can be a lot cheaper sometimes?
 
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al78

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Have you looked at splitting the tickets (split ticketing) and buying some advanced tickets but anytime/off peak for other parts it can be a lot cheaper sometimes?
Yes, that is something I will look into when we get into Spring.
 

Bald Rick

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I used the sleeper in June last year to do a linear two day walk. I found the experience fine, but it is a very expensive way to travel. I did book first class so it was nearly £500 to get to Scotland and back for a weekend hiking, all my camping equipment and walking gear combined came to less than that. Sleeping was a bit intermittant outgoing but had a decent sleep coming back, probably because I had spent the previous day and a half walking 28 miles. This year I am planning a longer backpacking trip which involves first getting to Inverness. I would prefer to go by train but paying the sleeper prices or getting a daytime train, which when I recently checked for a couple of months in advance, cost £190 one way with no advance ticket available, I am coming to the conclusion that paying a little over £40 for an Easyjet flight from Gatwick to Inverness is the most sensible option. Even adding the cost of getting too/from the airports it is still less than half the price of the train. If we get within 12 weeks of late May (I will be travelling a few days before the second bank holiday weekend) and advance tickets are non-existant for Horsham to Inverness, I will very likely take a flight.
If you are booking that far out, you’ll get an advance to Inverness on the Higland Chieftain for £60. The train is always busy, and particularly on Thursday / Friday when the advances will go quickly.

If price is your priority, you could get a seat on the overnight train for £50. But you’ll really have to want to do that!

But, it will take you about 10 hours from Horsham; it will be much quicker with Easyjet from Gatwick. Depends on your priorities of course.
 
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al78

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If you are booking that far out, you’ll get an advance to Inverness on the Higland Chieftain for £60. The train is always busy, and particularly on Thursday / Friday when the advances will go quickly.

If price is your priority, you could get a seat on the overnight train for £50. But you’ll really have to want to do that!

But, it will take you about 10 hours from Horsham; it will be much quicker with Easyjet from Gatwick. Depends on your priorities of course.
I'll start actively looking when we get within range of advances at the end of May.

I would not be happy booking a seat on the sleeper. I have never slept properly when seated in transport, and when I get to Inverness, I am getting a train to Lochluichart, from where two full days of walking starts, I don't fancy startiing that when sleep deprived and groggy.

The flight has the advantage that it might be possible to get to Inverness early afternoon and get an early afternoon train to Lochluichart, which gives me a few hours head start on the walking. The sleeper is optimal for timing as I can get the morning train, which effectively gives me an extra full day.
 

Essexman

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I've often heard it said that the best way to get a good night's sleep on the sleeper is to travel the other way on it the day before. There's certainly some truth in that.

I find the Lowland a bit of a short journey to get a decent sleep (although it's better now you can board earlier at Euston) but I usually get a reasonable sleep on the Highland.
 

MrEd

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I agree with the staff comment. My last three trips have been met with fairly rude and uninterested staff both in the lounge, and out. As a mode of a to b transport it still seems to work though it is now comically expensive. As an ‘experience’ which they seem to like to suggest it is which may be how they try to justify the price it has completely lost its way.
No hosts to show you at least to the carriage, people who have never been on it before simply wouldn’t have a clue where they were going anymore. Ask for a cup of tea (no food) at 0900 on the way towards fort William and get it at 0715 and get looked at rudely when you’re still in bed.
It’s just a general disappointment of late. It certainly no longer feels like they care.
As a semi-regular user of the Highland sleeper (around once a month on average), I thought I might share some of my views. I use either the Inverness section or the Fort William section (as far as Spean Bridge) for walking holidays/visiting friends on Skye and in the Lochalsh area, and love using the sleeper, particularly northbound, as it is such a fantastic experience waking up to the beautiful scenery on both the Highland Main Line and the West Highland Line, and very convenient for my travelling needs too (especially as the Inverness sleeper connects perfectly with the first Kyle train of the day). Admittedly, it is getting very pricey, particularly at peak travelling times such as Friday nights, although there are still some decent enough advance fares if you choose the quieter midweek services a couple of months ahead (I honestly don't find £99 first class single from Euston to Spean Bridge on Wednesday 10th April, with 16-25 railcard discount, to be *too* outrageous given the first class berth for the night, breakfast and distance involved). I am genuinely quite surprised by some of the comments on here about the attitude of the on-train staff, whom I have found (almost without exception) to be excellent on both these routes; whenever I've travelled, the Inverness and Fort William-based crews have given a fantastic welcome, been very helpful at times of disruption to the service and genuinely seemed to enjoy their work, and I don't think this has changed at all in the four years that I have been a regular user. I find that there are some really fantastic characters who work these routes, who enjoy sharing a good laugh with me and all the other travellers. Admittedly, everyone can have bad days at work, and I don't see them every day. I have no experience of the Lowland-based crews, nor do I travel often with the London-based staff, so there may well be attitude problems among those crews I never/rarely travel with. As for getting your tea two hours earlier than requested, this seems to be a very silly error on the crew's part, and not one which I can imagine the generally very attentive Fort William crew ever making; in my experience, they don't even start delivering coffee/breakfast to passengers doing the full journey to Fort William until about 08:30, unless they have specified an earlier time (or have requested it in the lounge car, in which case the latest time is 08:15 so that they have time to collect all the trays back in). I always ask to have my breakfast in the lounge car around 8am on this route, and so far this request has always been fulfilled. I wonder whether in your case, your host had mistaken your berth for that of a traveller getting off at an intermediate station like Crianlarich or Tyndrum (or wherever), hence their look of surprise when you were still asleep. The renumbering of the Mk3 berths from their original berth numbers (i.e. lower bunks odd numbers, upper bunks even numbers from 1-24) to individual room numbers 1-12, which happened earlier this year, can still cause confusion among staff- sometimes they have to think twice about where e.g. 'room 8' is. I have also heard that the current breakfast ordering system (where you have to fill out a card indicating your choice) is leading to some confused orders.

I personally much preferred the old check-in system where every two coaches had their own host, and you checked in with them, and gave your breakfast order to them, before you boarded. It was much easier (I thought) for passengers unfamiliar with the service to find their coach/berth in this way, and it did seem to be a more personal way of greeting passengers. It was also easier for the hosts too, I think, as they knew the face of everyone who was travelling in their carriages and had all the breakfast orders on one sheet. I think that the breakfast order cards cause more problems than they solve, especially as hosts now have to spend (in my experience) the first thirty minutes of each journey chasing passengers who've forgotten to fill it in/who haven't filled it in clearly etc. I didn't really understand the need for the new system, but I'm sure the management had their reasons. I wonder whether all these changes were *really* necessary, and whether it might not have been better to wait until the arrival of the new stock? I can well believe that some of the staff are stressed given the number of changes to their ways of working during the course of the past year, especially when many of these had remained fairly consistent since First Group days, and perhaps even earlier.
 

DuncanS

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Often wondered how well its used , Theres one at Leuchars and at Perth too. How many passengers board the sleeper at Dundee??
They have also put one in at Stirling, however I don't see any advertising at Stirling for it - Falkirk which doesn't have a customer lounge at least has an electronic Sleeper branded interactive information screen.
 

route101

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They have also put one in at Stirling, however I don't see any advertising at Stirling for it - Falkirk which doesn't have a customer lounge at least has an electronic Sleeper branded interactive information screen.
Falkirk is only served one way by the sleeper too , the screens just show the timetable dont think anyone really pays attention to them.
 

route101

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I've often heard it said that the best way to get a good night's sleep on the sleeper is to travel the other way on it the day before. There's certainly some truth in that.

I find the Lowland a bit of a short journey to get a decent sleep (although it's better now you can board earlier at Euston) but I usually get a reasonable sleep on the Highland.
Yep , thats true , you gotta make yourself tired on the day before . When ive taken the lowland ive only got comfy and sleeping when nearing Euston !!
 

47271

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The First Class lounges. Would it not have made more sense if the franchise had stipulated that they may be used by other First Class passengers throughout the day in the way that it works at Euston or Waverley? Otherwise it's just been a costly fit out to benefit a tiny handful of people. A bit like the new trains are looking like I suppose.

God knows Dundee, Perth or Stirling stations are grim enough places. If I had a First Class ticket (and I wouldn't because it's a waste of money on Scotrail) and was waiting at any of those at 11am I'd be a bit bemused as to why there was a lounge that I can't access?
 

Bald Rick

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How much will it cost to take your gear on EasyJet, plus taxis/buses from Inverness airport?
I can answer that. The bus from the airport to Inverness is about £4. As for bags, it’s quite feasible to get a few days walking kit in a cabin bag (I’ve done it several times), but if not it is £12 for a 15kg bag. You wouldn’t want to carry more than that walking.
 

Meerkat

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I don’t think my day sack would fit as cabin baggage and I wouldn’t want to put it in the hold.
But it’s still cheaper and quicker. I hate flying though, all the queues and being stuffed into a cramped tin can and told to stay in your seat.
 

cb a1

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I didn't sleep particularly well the first couple of times I used the sleeper, but familiarity soon set in.

For me the Sleeper also means I don't need to fork out for two nights in a hotel in central London as my days (and evenings) down there are usually pretty full.
 

Bletchleyite

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I don’t think my day sack would fit as cabin baggage and I wouldn’t want to put it in the hold.
But it’s still cheaper and quicker. I hate flying though, all the queues and being stuffed into a cramped tin can and told to stay in your seat.
Strangely, I find that if you take measures to make it a bit more civilised (i.e. pay a few quid for a hold bag, the exit row and for the queue-jump lane at the airport, which also serves to remove ditherers from the security queue in front of you) that flying is much more civilised than most rail travel these days. No fighting for a seat, good legroom guaranteed if paid for (and a good chance of an empty middle), catering at your seat, no need to carry your own bag, and often quite spectacular views. And security is fine if you know how it works, ensure you are properly ready and don't try to "get away with" borderline things.
 

Meerkat

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Surely everyone has a booked seat on long distance trains these days?
You have to carry your bag through miles of airport or wait for a hold bag to finally appear.
And queue or wait multiple times and waddle through security trying to keep your trousers up!
 

Bletchleyite

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Surely everyone has a booked seat on long distance trains these days?
Nope, and unlike on a plane you often have to evict someone from it.

There are also very few "no view" seats on planes so, exit row aside for extra legroom and the front if you're in a hurry to get off, there is much less of a case to prefer a specific one.

You have to carry your bag through miles of airport or wait for a hold bag to finally appear.
Some airports have a slow baggage delivery issue (yes, you, Gatwick), but most in my experience don't. Luton is very quick in particular - they just chuck it on a flatbed Transit and drive it over.

And queue or wait multiple times and waddle through security trying to keep your trousers up!
Priority costs little and avoids most queueing, and it amazes me how many people seem to like to purchase trousers that don't fit them - all mine will stay up without the belt! (Though I have a couple of all-plastic belts which are good for that purpose).
 

Bletchleyite

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Surely there are very few view seats on a plane!
Unless you are next to the window you can’t see down, and I can’t even see out very comfortably from a window seat as I am too tall.
I'm quite tall and I can see out (down, which is the bit that's interesting) pretty well. The trend is towards bigger windows, too, with the composite fuselages. The 787 is great for this, it almost feels like being on a flying train.
 

Essexman

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Big advantage of sleeper from me is that it effectively takes no time. Two nights travelling (one day away from work) gives a whole day (12-15 hours) in which there’s time for a work meeting and train trip afterwards. All so much more enjoyable than getting up early to fly.
 

Chester1

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Are any of the Mark III sleeper carriages transfering to the Night Riviera? An extra 4 coaches would be enough to make all services 6 sleeper, 2 seated and 1 lounge and have 2 spares. I think that is the longest all platforms can fit. I doubt they will be worth much more than their scrap value once the new fleet is in service.

I am taking the Highlander soon and looking forward to it! What time is food served to northbound and when does breakfast start southbound? I am boarding and disembarking at Crewe.
 

Essexman

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With regard my original comment about all passengers being moved into one coach (northbound Glasgow 7th Jan), I emailed Caledonian Sleeper and got a reply the same day. They said that:

'on the evening in question the train was extremely quiet therefore due to Operational reasons the crew made the decision to move all guests to the one coach'.

I will reply to them suggesting that a New Year ticket sale, as run by many long distance operators, might help fill the empty berths.
 

Journeyman

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I personally much preferred the old check-in system where every two coaches had their own host, and you checked in with them, and gave your breakfast order to them, before you boarded. It was much easier (I thought) for passengers unfamiliar with the service to find their coach/berth in this way, and it did seem to be a more personal way of greeting passengers.
What do they do now, then? It's been about 18 months since I last used it, but I'm doing Edinburgh to London in a couple of weeks time.
 

BRX

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I used the sleeper in June last year to do a linear two day walk. I found the experience fine, but it is a very expensive way to travel. I did book first class so it was nearly £500 to get to Scotland and back for a weekend hiking, all my camping equipment and walking gear combined came to less than that. Sleeping was a bit intermittant outgoing but had a decent sleep coming back, probably because I had spent the previous day and a half walking 28 miles. This year I am planning a longer backpacking trip which involves first getting to Inverness. I would prefer to go by train but paying the sleeper prices or getting a daytime train, which when I recently checked for a couple of months in advance, cost £190 one way with no advance ticket available, I am coming to the conclusion that paying a little over £40 for an Easyjet flight from Gatwick to Inverness is the most sensible option. Even adding the cost of getting too/from the airports it is still less than half the price of the train. If we get within 12 weeks of late May (I will be travelling a few days before the second bank holiday weekend) and advance tickets are non-existant for Horsham to Inverness, I will very likely take a flight.
£190 is the return price to Inverness: I assume you're quoting the walk-up single price because you are returning from a different station? If you are, say, going up to Inverness and returning via the WHL, it usually works out best to get an off peak return to Inverness, then a single from the WHL station to Glasgow, and resume travelling on your return from there. Alternatively, split your ticket at Glasgow or Edinburgh. There are usually many more Advance fares available between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh. But I've just done a quick check for mid march and there's a £68 advance Horsham/Inverness using the LNER 'Highland Chieftain' (arrive 2006).
 

BRX

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What do they do now, then? It's been about 18 months since I last used it, but I'm doing Edinburgh to London in a couple of weeks time.
You arrive at the head of the platform and there's someone standing at a little lectern who checks you in. At Euston there are usually two (or three?) of them, according to your final destination. Unfortunately it means you have to stand in a queue instead of joining the much smaller number of people waiting to get on your particular coach that used to be the system.
 

Journeyman

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You arrive at the head of the platform and there's someone standing at a little lectern who checks you in. At Euston there are usually two (or three?) of them, according to your final destination. Unfortunately it means you have to stand in a queue instead of joining the much smaller number of people waiting to get on your particular coach that used to be the system.
Oh. Doesn't sound like an improvement, although there were always cases of people getting on board without checking in, and getting in the wrong berths and stuff. Maybe it's a way to get around that. Of course, a lot of things they're doing now are meant to be systems in place for the new rolling stock, which is late - when it comes in, you'll need to collect a key card for your cabin, so that's probably the easiest way to dish them out.
 

al78

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£190 is the return price to Inverness: I assume you're quoting the walk-up single price because you are returning from a different station? If you are, say, going up to Inverness and returning via the WHL, it usually works out best to get an off peak return to Inverness, then a single from the WHL station to Glasgow, and resume travelling on your return from there. Alternatively, split your ticket at Glasgow or Edinburgh. There are usually many more Advance fares available between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh. But I've just done a quick check for mid march and there's a £68 advance Horsham/Inverness using the LNER 'Highland Chieftain' (arrive 2006).
I looked at the single price on the national rail website as I was interested if advances were available a couple of months ahead of now (as a test), they weren't. I agree the return fare is similar to the single, and that could be an option if it was less than £200 to get to Inverness and back, even if I couldn't get an advance.
 

al78

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How much will it cost to take your gear on EasyJet, plus taxis/buses from Inverness airport?
I don't know how much it costs to take one bag in hold, I've never flown with Easyjet. I live near Horsham so getting to Gatwick is cheap and easy by train, and cycling to Horsham station costs nothing. Buses from the airport to Inverness were around £5 last time I checked. A train from Inverness to Lochluichart costs less than £10. Summed together it is still much cheaper than taking the train all the way.
 

BRX

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I looked at the single price on the national rail website as I was interested if advances were available a couple of months ahead of now (as a test), they weren't. I agree the return fare is similar to the single, and that could be an option if it was less than £200 to get to Inverness and back, even if I couldn't get an advance.
In my experience, generally the only advance fare (except for CS) you'll find between London and Inverness without splitting tickets is whatever is offered on the once-a-day direct LNER service.
 

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