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Future of On-Train Catering- Scotrail and Caledonian Sleeper

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MrEd

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Speaking for myself, I've used the sleeper purely for utility reasons rather than treating it as a tourist attraction. Living in southern England and enjoying an annual hiking/backpacking trip in Scotland it is a very convenient way of doing a very long journey without consuming a full day, and getting me there at a very convenient time to start my hiking trip as soon as I leave the train. The timing of the sleeper form Euston is conveninent as I have time to cook and eat an evening meal before leaving home, so don't have to worry about whether I'll be able to eat on the train. If I were to travel to the Scottish highlands on a daytime train I would have to buy split tickets and break the journey in Glasgow or Edinburgh long enough to find a nearby pub/restaurant for an (early) evening meal. That's quite tricky if I want to go to Fort William as the train journey from Glasgow is long and infrequent, so needs some careful timing, and will likely be expensive.

That’s so true. I can’t imagine you’re alone in your experience. For many people, the sleeper is all about convenience. I think there is very much a market for a convenient overnight service (aimed more at those who need to get from A to B for work or leisure purposes) as opposed to an attraction in itself, and a market which CS neglected before Covid.

I heard some very positive things about how well the CS staff treated essential travellers during the lockdown, and I’m sure that their offer of free travel for NHS workers during that awful time was very much appreciated. I do hope that CS do everything they can to support these essential workers and make them welcome on the trains post-Covid; these are the very people that CS should be supporting; it is for them, after all, that this train is subsidised and ran throughout the lockdown. It’s almost like they found a heart and a soul they never knew they had.
 
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theironroad

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That’s so true. I can’t imagine you’re alone in your experience. For many people, the sleeper is all about convenience. I think there is very much a market for a convenient overnight service (aimed more at those who need to get from A to B for work or leisure purposes) as opposed to an attraction in itself, and a market which CS neglected before Covid.

I heard some very positive things about how well the CS staff treated essential travellers during the lockdown, and I’m sure that their offer of free travel for NHS workers during that awful time was very much appreciated. I do hope that CS do everything they can to support these essential workers and make them welcome on the trains post-Covid; these are the very people that CS should be supporting; it is for them, after all, that this train is subsidised and ran throughout the lockdown. It’s almost like they found a heart and a soul they never knew they had.

I'd very much imagine that between the DfT and TS, Serco were very well recompensed to keep running so excuse me if I don't jump on a saint Serco bandwagon :)

I used the eus to inv the other day for first time since March and in reality for me it was no different as I don't use the lounge normally. Get feeling it was reasonably quiet and say less than 20 hot off a inv incl a group. Don't think the seated portion has been reinstated between edb and inv yet and for sure we didn't stop at aviemore, maybe others places we didn't stop but I'd have been (trying :( :( ) to be some sleep.

The few members of staff I spoke with briefly all good and got my OJ delivered in morning all fine.

Tbh, right now I'd rather travel in a cabin on sleeper than use avanti up the west coast and avoid the central belt train changing.
 
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vlad

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You are correct, much like a "prison on wheels " at the moment .
Pretty far removed from all the "hotel on wheels "marketing of last year.
Gets you there, in a self isolated fashion, and good punctuality currently.

It doesn't sound like it's changed much since last year, then....
 

MrEd

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I'd very much imagine that between the DfT and TS, Serco were very well recompensed to keep running so excuse me if I don't jump on a saint Serco bandwagon :)

I used the eus to inv the other day for first time since March and in reality for me it was no different as I don't use the lounge normally. Get feeling it was reasonably quiet and say less than 20 hot off a inv incl a group. Don't think the seated portion has been reinstated between edb and inv yet and for sure we didn't stop at aviemore, maybe others places we didn't stop but I'd have been (trying :( :( ) to be some sleep.

The few members of staff I spoke with briefly all good and got my OJ delivered in morning all fine.

Tbh, right now I'd rather travel in a cabin on sleeper than use avanti up the west coast and avoid the central belt train changing.

The way it works on the Inverness sleeper at the moment is that unless the train needs to stop for staffing purposes or to cross a southbound working on the single track sections of the HML, the train can pass through all the stations between Stirling and Inverness at which no one is booked to alight. This means that the train very often sails through the likes of Dalwhinnie and Carrbridge without stopping (sometimes if no one is booked to get off at Aviemore, it passes through there non stop too). The sleeper can leave each station as soon as all booked passengers have disembarked, rather than needing to wait for booked departure time. This is because all the stations on the Highland Main Line are now set-down only, with the seated coach currently out of action to ‘day’ passengers between Kingussie and Inverness. The result is that the train tends to run slightly early on the Highland Main Line- with no stop at Carrbridge, it tends to get as far as Moy before it has to stop to cross the southbound Highland Chieftain, and typically arrives in Inverness around 10 minutes early at 08:30.
 

theironroad

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The way it works on the Inverness sleeper at the moment is that unless the train needs to stop for staffing purposes or to cross a southbound working on the single track sections of the HML, the train can pass through all the stations between Stirling and Inverness at which no one is booked to alight. This means that the train very often sails through the likes of Dalwhinnie and Carrbridge without stopping (sometimes if no one is booked to get off at Aviemore, it passes through there non stop too). The sleeper can leave each station as soon as all booked passengers have disembarked, rather than needing to wait for booked departure time. This is because all the stations on the Highland Main Line are now set-down only, with the seated coach currently out of action to ‘day’ passengers between Kingussie and Inverness. The result is that the train tends to run slightly early on the Highland Main Line- with no stop at Carrbridge, it tends to get as far as Moy before it has to stop to cross the southbound Highland Chieftain, and typically arrives in Inverness around 10 minutes early at 08:30.

Thanks for the info, which is what I was guessing. I just happened to open blind as we sailed through aviemore last week. Seems we ran earlier enough to be allowed a straight run into inv without waiting for anything as we passed aviemore 9E to arrive in inverness 32E
 

MrEd

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Thanks for the info, which is what I was guessing. I just happened to open blind as we sailed through aviemore last week. Seems we ran earlier enough to be allowed a straight run into inv without waiting for anything as we passed aviemore 9E to arrive in inverness 32E

You’d have been running so early that you’d have been able to get all the way to the double track section at Culloden Moor before encountering the up Chieftain, which leaves Inverness at 07:55, and could then have sailed past this at line speed on the double track, rather than having to go into the loop at Moy (which carries a significant time penalty, as the loop signals are approach-controlled from red, and the loop is I think restricted to 25mph) and wait for the Chieftain there. This generally results in an arrival in Inverness (assuming platform 1 or 2 is free, which may not always be the case) before 8.10. If Moy loop is used to pass the Chieftain, arrival time is typically 08:30; if Tomatin or Slochd is used, arrival time is closer to 08:40 (which is still a right time arrival according to the public timetable).
 

47296lastduff

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I don't know if it still applies, but during first lockdown Northern were allegedly banning all eating and drinking on their trains, including food you brought with you.
 

MrEd

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I don't know if it still applies, but during first lockdown Northern were allegedly banning all eating and drinking on their trains, including food you brought with you.

I‘m not sure that’s actually legal. Passengers would need to be allowed to drink water, at the very least; this would conflict with advice to stay well hydrated on long journeys (especially during the warm months), and (let‘s be honest) with basic human rights- especially if a passenger was diabetic or had a specific medical condition. Most TOCs now suggest that the need to eat or drink is a legitimate reason to remove a face mask (temporarily). I can see why TOCs do not want to offer a full meal service which would encourage passengers to take off their masks for a prolonged period, but they still have to allow passengers to bring their own water/snacks.

I can imagine some TOCs thinking of alcohol bans, for more reasons than just Covid, but banning all food and drink altogether is bang out of order.
 

Bletchleyite

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Eating and drinking has never been allowed on Metrolink, and many Northern journeys are similarly short. Realistically nobody will tell you off for a quick drink of water if it is needed, but in reality most people without a serious medical condition can go half an hour without drinking water.
 

Scotrail314209

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I wonder if Scotrail would ever get rid of catering on the e2g via Falkirk service. I've never seen anyone actually buy anyone from it, nor does it always make it down the full 8 coaches in 50 minutes. Then again, since that is their apparent flagship route it doesn't look like it will go anywhere anytime soon.

However, I do believe they should look into bringing on a trolley service on the Edinburgh - Perth & Dundee trains, all journeys of over an hour and technically InterCity. The only services on those routes that convey catering is the ones up to Aberdeen and Inverness.
 

MrEd

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I wonder if Scotrail would ever get rid of catering on the e2g via Falkirk service. I've never seen anyone actually buy anyone from it, nor does it always make it down the full 8 coaches in 50 minutes. Then again, since that is their apparent flagship route it doesn't look like it will go anywhere anytime soon.

However, I do believe they should look into bringing on a trolley service on the Edinburgh - Perth & Dundee trains, all journeys of over an hour and technically InterCity. The only services on those routes that convey catering is the ones up to Aberdeen and Inverness.

I think that Scotrail will probably be less concerned about a supposed ’flagship’ service (which to most folk belongs in the ’outer-suburban’ category, rather than ’InterCity’) than about the finances. If the trolley is financially viable, it’ll probably stay post-Covid; if not (as I suspect), now is probably a good time quietly to get rid of it without anyone really noticing it. I think that the longer the journey, the more chance you have of selling refreshments- trains to Perth and Dundee are probably more deserving of a trolley, but then again, it’s still a relatively short journey.

I have a feeling that Scotrail will want to make economies, and I personally think the trolley on the E&G is doomed. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the ones on the Inverness-Kyle and Inverness-Aberdeen either, as these don’t strike me as being very well used (even in peak tourist season/times of peak demand pre-Covid). The ones which are most likely to survive are those on reasonably busy routes with an end-to-end journey time of three hours or longer (preferably with a lot of end-to-end travel)- I.e. Glasgow/Edinburgh-Inverness/Aberdeen, the West Highland and the Far North. But even then, demand for the trolley was always variable- there have been times when trains between Perth and Inverness have been almost standing room only, yet the trolley probably took less than £10.

Another point to consider is that people will have become so used to these routes not having catering that they will be in a habit of eating/buying before boarding, perhaps not a habit they’ll get out of quickly (especially as they might find station outlets cheaper and more reliable). Also, I am not certain that patronage of a lot of Scotrail services (especially those which rely on commuting and business travel, like the E&G) will return to pre-Covid levels for a long time.
 

Scotrail314209

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I think that Scotrail will probably be less concerned about a supposed ’flagship’ service (which to most folk belongs in the ’outer-suburban’ category, rather than ’InterCity’) than about the finances. If the trolley is financially viable, it’ll probably stay post-Covid; if not (as I suspect), now is probably a good time quietly to get rid of it without anyone really noticing it. I think that the longer the journey, the more chance you have of selling refreshments- trains to Perth and Dundee are probably more deserving of a trolley, but then again, it’s still a relatively short journey.

I have a feeling that Scotrail will want to make economies, and I personally think the trolley on the E&G is doomed. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the ones on the Inverness-Kyle and Inverness-Aberdeen either, as these don’t strike me as being very well used (even in peak tourist season/times of peak demand pre-Covid). The ones which are most likely to survive are those on reasonably busy routes with an end-to-end journey time of three hours or longer (preferably with a lot of end-to-end travel)- I.e. Glasgow/Edinburgh-Inverness/Aberdeen, the West Highland and the Far North. But even then, demand for the trolley was always variable- there have been times when trains between Perth and Inverness have been almost standing room only, yet the trolley probably took less than £10.

Another point to consider is that people will have become so used to these routes not having catering that they will be in a habit of eating/buying before boarding, perhaps not a habit they’ll get out of quickly (especially as they might find station outlets cheaper and more reliable). Also, I am not certain that patronage of a lot of Scotrail services (especially those which rely on commuting and business travel, like the E&G) will return to pre-Covid levels for a long time.

The trolley makes one hell of a profit on the summer WHL morning service which is the 08:23 Oban & Mallaig service. It's used a lot by passengers travelling to Mallaig, even more so that they were able to justify using a trolley between Fort William and Mallaig.

I agree with point about the trolley on the e2g, but then you get the issue of First Class. Nobody would pay for it because you aren't getting anything different, and an 8 car 385 has plenty of standard class seating. If they remove the trolley then I can see the first class being taken out to make way for extra standard seats.
 

alangla

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I have a feeling that Scotrail will want to make economies, and I personally think the trolley on the E&G is doomed.
I doubt that. The E&G line exists in a bubble. Always the newest express stock in the fleet, always first class (except when Suburbostars turned up solo and I suppose the failed efforts at fitting pretendy first to some 380s) and always with catering. Lots of powerful & influential people use the route (politicians, judges, senior lawyers, business types) so it’ll probably be the last one to go, regardless of economics. The evenings and weekends when these people aren’t about will probably see significant trimming though.
 

Scotrail314209

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I doubt that. The E&G line exists in a bubble. Always the newest express stock in the fleet, always first class (except when Suburbostars turned up solo and I suppose the failed efforts at fitting pretendy first to some 380s) and always with catering. Lots of powerful & influential people use the route (politicians, judges, senior lawyers, business types) so it’ll probably be the last one to go, regardless of economics. The evenings and weekends when these people aren’t about will probably see significant trimming though.

I've noticed the trolley vanishes on the evenings. I think it's after about 7pm that the trolley comes off the e2g.
 

route101

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I've noticed the trolley vanishes on the evenings. I think it's after about 7pm that the trolley comes off the e2g.

Used to be after 9pm, when the 385s were introduced, the catering hosts would make announcements about catering. It is a big resource providing catering on a service every 15 mins. When I've seen passengers using the trolley on the route, its mostly coffee and tea.

I wondered about catering on Glasgow/Edinburgh - Dundee/Perth. I suppose this are stoppers and don't have seat reservations too. Ive hardly used the trolley, i can be sure my drink/beer or water is cold from a supermarket! I dont tend to drink hot drinks!
 

Scotrail314209

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Used to be after 9pm, when the 385s were introduced, the catering hosts would make announcements about catering. It is a big resource providing catering on a service every 15 mins. When I've seen passengers using the trolley on the route, its mostly coffee and tea.

I wondered about catering on Glasgow/Edinburgh - Dundee/Perth. I suppose this are stoppers and don't have seat reservations too. Ive hardly used the trolley, i can be sure my drink/beer or water is cold from a supermarket! I dont tend to drink hot drinks!

I feel for the hosts, as it must’ve got boring shuttling between Glasgow and Edinburgh all day.
 

route101

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I feel for the hosts, as it must’ve got boring shuttling between Glasgow and Edinburgh all day.

I think the do routes up to Aberdeen too. A few of them appeared to be from Poland etc, so may be recruited from an agency.
 

mark-h

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I wonder if Scotrail would ever get rid of catering on the e2g via Falkirk service. I've never seen anyone actually buy anyone from it, nor does it always make it down the full 8 coaches in 50 minutes.
What routes/services are Scotrail contractually obliged to provide catering on?
 

route101

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What routes/services are Scotrail contractually obliged to provide catering on?

Glasgow/ Edinburgh to Aberdeen/Inverness.
Aberdeen to Inverness
Glasgow to Oban and FW/Mallaig
Far North and Kyle line
Glasgow to Edinburgh via Falkirk High.

Former route: Glasgow to Carlisle via Dumfries. Not sure about Stranraer.
 

cakefiend

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I think the do routes up to Aberdeen too. A few of them appeared to be from Poland etc, so may be recruited from an agency.
Not sure how their nationality makes them less likely to be an in-house employee. Utterly bizarre comment.
 

Statto

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Catering on Glasgow-Edinburgh via Falkirk High service is daft when the journey time is around 50 minutes, i can understand on board catering more on anything that takes 2 hours plus.
 

Parallel

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Catering on Glasgow-Edinburgh via Falkirk High service is daft when the journey time is around 50 minutes, i can understand on board catering more on anything that takes 2 hours plus.
Not to mention the amount of outlets
at both stations and outside the stations in both cities!

The WHL probably does well, not just because of the long journey times and the through traffic, but also because many of the stations have limited or no catering offerings.
 

Bletchleyite

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The WHL probably does well, not just because of the long journey times and the through traffic, but also because many of the stations have limited or no catering offerings.

Also a lot of tourist traffic, and tourists are more likely to spend on non-essential "luxuries", if you'd call lukewarm tea and packet cake a luxury.
 

najaB

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...if you'd call lukewarm tea and packet cake a luxury
This is one thing I appreciated about the sleeper when I used to use it regularly: they actually had water hot enough to make a proper cup of tea, unlike the trolleys where, after half an hour, it was barely warm enough for making hot chocolate.
 
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