Caledonian Sleeper

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by Essexman, 10 Jan 2019.

  1. Mainliner

    Mainliner Member

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    Little chance of any profit the way things are going, but yes, it would no doubt be easier without pesky customers not wanting an uncomfortably fast ride, arriving early or being hassled to get off before the advertised time!
     
  2. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    surely that is a quick win - all it needs is the payment to VT and VT staff up for the overtime. Just shows how un-entrepreneurial this industry is really - the whole point of private contractors being asked to run parts of it I seem to recall (well beyond ideology of course).
     
  3. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    so comparing these with my thoughts on Mk3

    -comfortable beds and decent pillows

    I found the Mk3 recently good on this

    -lots of minor teething problems with the stock (toilet doors not locking properly, sinks leaking on the floor)

    None of this on Mk 3obv, but equiv was 1 toilet in my coach locked out of use at start of journey

    -lack of attention to detail (one guy with a clipboard on the platform checking in all the Edinburgh passengers, many of whom had been moved/downgraded due to faulty bathrooms, the connecting door in our cabin wasn’t locked)

    Same on Mk3 in a way ref attention to aspects of detail.

    -ride on the Mk5s is unconvincing: we were probably over a bogie but the noise and movement at places like Preston and Crewe would wake anyone up

    Bit worrying as the one thing you might expect after 35+ years of design improvements would be a better ride and better sound insulation.
     
  4. MrEd

    MrEd Member

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    I may be very sceptical here, but I’m not sure that Serco have ever properly understood the sleeper’s purpose, and have tried from the start to make out that it’s something that it’s not. I (and I hope that many regular travellers will agree) have never envisaged the sleeper as a luxury ‘hotel’ experience, but rather as a convenient, comfortable and fun way of travelling overnight between London and Scotland. It did not need to be the Orient Express; a well-maintained Mk3 with a comfy bed and a lounge car with reasonably priced food and drink was good enough for me (and I still enjoy travelling on the old stock), although I will keep an open mind and am looking forward to giving the Mk5s a try. I worry that Serco have got so carried away with the ’hotel on wheels’ marketing hype that they’ve lost sight of the service’s purpose and of what actually matters. Making the service too expensive for many of the regular travellers who were its lifeblood (who simply want a comfortable, reliable, affordable train on which they can get a good sleep and which departs and arrives on time) while trying to attract well-heeled tourists with undeliverable promises will not end well. Surely the year-round customers matter far more than hypothetical well-heeled tourists (for whom the experience is often a one-off anyway). I have a feeling that by late October, Serco will seriously need to rethink their marketing strategy if their trains are to be carrying much more than fresh air for most of the winter... Surely some ‘bargain berth’-type special deals to encourage passengers to use the train on midweek nights in winter wouldn’t go amiss?
     
  5. Glenn1969

    Glenn1969 Member

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    Why do neither of the Sleepers run on Saturdays which I'm sure the leisure market would find useful?
     
  6. _toommm_

    _toommm_ Established Member

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    I think it's due to engineering work Saturday night into Sunday morning, although I'm happy to be corrected...
     
  7. w1bbl3

    w1bbl3 Member

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    If Serco are going to make attracting the tourist / experience customer the main priority by claiming a "magical experience" then the in age of social media they need to make sure the experience is magical boarding hours late with no where to wait isn't and I expect will hurt sales long term.

    TBH I'm always surprised that CS haven't opened up dedicated lounges at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Euston, if only for the potential up selling opportunities offered by a lounge. Evening Food and Alcohol sales are significant profit centres for hotels which due to the planned late evening boarding for lowland passengers is something that CS will be missing out on, simple logic is that most lowland passengers will have eaten prior to boarding as having your evening meal post 10pm isn't common, a lounge open from say 7pm could capitalise on this market.
     
  8. Scotrail84

    Scotrail84 Established Member

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    Engineering works, if it ran on a Saturday night it would not get to its terminating station until the following afternoon with all the diversions that would be required.

    Plus there is no call for it on a Saturday night and theres no requirement for it in the franchise, not many leisure travellers travel on a Saturday night into Sunday, all that would happen is you would get all the piss heads trying to get on who have missed the last train North or South.
     
  9. Highlandspring

    Highlandspring Established Member

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    Bear in mind that Serco bid on and work to a very demanding franchise specification set by the Scottish Government. Serco certainly haven’t come up with all this stuff off their own back.
     
  10. Chrism20

    Chrism20 Established Member

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    I suppose the big question will be where do you put these lounges and how much is it going to cost?

    Rent for space in those stations would not be cheap whilst there would also be additional staffing costs as you would need at least a couple of staff to run each lounge (Presumably one serving and one prepping drinks/food) although the check-in duties could possibly be passed onto the staff here rather than the crew which would solve some of the problems the crew are having to deal with.

    Logistically it could end up costing them more that they make by some distance.

    Also if this were a proper hotel and I was up to two hours late getting access to my room I'd probably be getting offered comp drinks/snacks whilst waiting in the bar area which would be additional cost. There has been reports of a CS manager standing tapping away at the PDQ with the company credit card at Upper Crust at Euston but this was in the early days of the new stock. If there were dedicated lounges there would be an expectation for a bit of "Customer service" to be happening in the event of delays. I'd go as far as to say it actually suits Serco to have passengers milling around Euston Concourse as it costs them less. I've heard of hotels at sports grounds comping full nights if there have been problems with accessing rooms after evening events

    With the fares being charged and the well heeled being targeted it's only a matter of time until they are taken to task for the way they are handling the current problems.
     
  11. TimboM

    TimboM Established Member

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    The Class 92s which haul the Mk5s have a max speed of 87 mph - that is hardly fast for both stock and a route that is cleared for up to 110 mph (non-tilt). The rough riding some have reported from the Mk5s vs Mk3s is due to the stock, not how fast they are being driven.

    Generally speaking the Sleepers will be driven up to the designed service speed of 80 mph, with 87 mph (which is hardly a massive increase) being used if running behind time.

    As Mag_Seven has explained, the Lowlander has a lot of slack in the timings on the southern WCML and this is why it often arrives c.30 mins early, not because the drivers are haring down the WCML to get into Euston really early. They're actually far more pushed for time on the Highlander which is fitting in around the peak traffic - this often arrives bang on time, but has had to go up to 87 (or 100 with a Skoda) to keep its slot amongst the Pendos, Voyagers and units.

    So the train that arrives early you perceive has rushed at the detriment of passenger comfort is usually being driven at normal service speed and can accelerate/brake more steadily, and the one that arrives on time and you may perceive has been "kept to time" is the one that's had to be driven as fast as is permitted.

    The majority of the Sleeper drivers are highly experienced railwaymen who have driven Class 1 passenger trains since you and I were in short trousers. They are fully aware they have sleeping passengers on board and are continually balancing passenger comfort with making appropriate progress on a busy railway.
     
  12. TimboM

    TimboM Established Member

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    Serco are making a loss of around £20-25m this year.
     
  13. trebor79

    trebor79 Member

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    So it could travel at say 65 or 70mph, keep to the planned timings and give everyone a better night's sleep?
     
  14. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    BR stopped the Saturday sleepers as there was little demand for them. Indeed demand for long distance travel arriving early Sunday morning is pretty low; for example there are only 5 flights London to Edinburgh / Glasgow that arrive before midday Sunday compared to 25 on a weekday. The airlines are very responsive to demand patterns!

    Second reason was engineering work as mentioned above

    Third reason, IIRC, was to give space for longer maintenance periods on the fleet, ie essentially all weekend if anything major needed doing, rather than taking a coach out of service.
     
  15. jellybaby

    jellybaby Member

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    There are plenty of restaurants and bars around the stations, a lounge couldn't compete. The station lounge is only valuable when boarding is unexpectedly delayed which has to be resolved eventually.
     
  16. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    Not necessarily. It needs to be at certain places at certain times to fit around other trains.
     
  17. jagardner1984

    jagardner1984 Member

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    Serco have opened various lounges in places that had no facilities (Perth etc).

    The issue seems to be how you respond to periods of disruption in a station with Closed facilities, Euston, Glasgow etc. Not just for passengers with lounge access earlier in the evening, but all passengers. It doesn’t seem impossible for a combination of Serco, Virgin, SSP (who operate almost all the outlets in stations), Rail Gourmet to come up with a solution to this problem.

    Whether it be later lounge access or a trolley with a stack of paper cups and a flask of tea and some biscuits, a little effort goes a long way with customer goodwill. See Tripadvisor for evidence of how Well that’s going for Serco just now.
     
  18. Mainliner

    Mainliner Member

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    Exactly, and there seems to be a baffling lack of awareness on the part of management of the urgent need to take any action. Well, the longer it goes on, the worse the long term effects will be.
     
  19. 6Z09

    6Z09 Member

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    I am bemused by those who go on about reducing speed to give them a better sleep!
    It is a moving train,getting there early would suit me better that late.
    The" hotel on wheels"marketing is just a disaster. Undeliverable, and a huge mistake by Serco. As were the quotes about "kissing delner couplers" and smoother ride!
     
  20. Caleb2010

    Caleb2010 Member

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    I wonder if Serco/ CS/ Transport Scotland monitor this forum and actually take note of what people are saying.

    If they do, is any of the criticism taken on board?

    One quick glance through the forum would instantly tell the powers that be, that the passenger is the person suffering the after effects of decisions over pricing and methods, and it is these people that they should be consulting before making changes.

    Because, after all, it's going to be those very same passengers that will be using the mega price inflated, hotel on wheels on a snowy Tuesday in February, not the holiday making American tourist!
     
  21. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    All no doubt trues but it did used to run sat nights - as per other thread, think into the 1980s,maybe the late 80s 'sleeper cull'. Maybe then there was also more newspaper traffic on the same services in vans?
     
  22. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    Yes, surprising really that a Scottish sunday paper (Scotsman for example) hasn't already done a feature on how well, or not, things are going...not as if Serco is a well loved brand to lay into when you need to fill some column inches....
     
  23. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    I'd assume another key issue is that NR would be able to rent the space for more to someone else who can make more money on it from say 9am to 7pm. That's why doing a deal with Virgin makes more sense. But it's classic disjointed railway problem - BR would have had a lounge for all passengers (eg 1st class lounge) not excluded 1st class ticket holders from other services. Or had no lounge at all....
     
  24. Iskra

    Iskra Established Member

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    I doubt we will ever know if they read this board, but one thing that CS under Serco have always been very good at it in my experience is in asking for feedback, usually through after-trip online surveys that come via email. Any competent operator would also be scanning trip adviser and twitter for customer feedback too.

    However, getting feedback is the easy bit. Collating it into an intelligent customer-focused response from the operations side of the business is the bit that requires real skill. We also don’t know how high this feedback goes, and it is very easy to cherry pick the positive bits and ignore the bits that sit uncomfortably.
     
  25. Scotrail84

    Scotrail84 Established Member

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    I would imagine there would have been parcels/papers vans as well as motorail vans too all running at a massive loss. If I'm right in a few years the Scottish gov will take the hit for all losses on the sleeper, I wonder how long they will be willing to take a 20-25m loss every year before looking for another operator? If they can do that of course.
     
  26. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    Doubt it - if they are anything like the marketing team where I work they often dismiss informed comment as 'unrepresentative', and refer to the customer survey stats they collect, which have survey questions in them rather worded to distort the answers that respondents give, and then trot out spin saying "well 85% of customers say they are very satisfied so there can't really be a problem", which goes back to Transport Scotland etc, without admitting that this is on a response rate of less than 30%, say. Then they bury their heads in the sand when business declines and eventually blame 'wider factors' for the problems. That's if they haven't seen the writing on the wall and used their skills at PR spin to secure a new job elsewhere before the problems become apparent, then repeat the cycle with new job...

    Having said the above the post journey e-mail survey sent to me by Transport Focus on behalf of CS had better constructed questions, better than CS's own survey I would say.
     
  27. Iskra

    Iskra Established Member

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    To reduce the loss, they should just stick it in the main Scotrail franchise which would remove all the parallel back of house functions and allow customer hosts, drivers and guards from the wider Scotrail pool to be used who could be more productive by also working day trains. A seperate mini franchise is never going to be economically efficient.
     
  28. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    yes, this is why I thought it odd that TS separated it out to start with.
     
  29. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    very well put.
     
  30. Scotrail84

    Scotrail84 Established Member

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    Going back to ScotRail would be fine but the Drivers mostly came from DB at the time with Qst and FTW drivers passed on the FTW sleepers. The hosts and team leaders were all dedicated sleeper jobs in ScotRail based at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Ft William and London. The Guards that worked between Edinburgh/Glasgow and London were all in a dedicated sleeper link. The guards that worked the services North of Edinburgh were all day train Guards with sleeper work in the links. Its not as simple as saying just get those staff to work other services during the day.

    There would be no reason to change that if the franchise went back to ScotRail.
     

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