New hotel-style Caledonian Sleeper carriages delayed to spring 2019
The introduction of new carriages for the Caledonian Sleeper has been further delayed until next year.
The carriages, which include en suite showers and double beds, were expected to be operating between London, Glasgow and Edinburgh from the end of October but their introduction has been pushed back to May 2019.
It is the second delay having already been pushed back from April 2018.
Operator Serco said 35 of 75 new carriages are still under construction in Spain and testing and regulatory approval is needed before they can operate.
Passengers who booked for the new carriages will be offered refunds, Serco said.
Transport Secretary Micheal Matheson said it was “a particularly disappointing development” with significant public investment in the project.
In a letter to Serco, Mr Matheson said: “I note your confidence that new trains will be ready for service by spring 2019, and thank you for the explanation of challenges experienced in the programme so far.
“However I would like a robust explanation for Serco’s plans to address these in the future, together with full assurance on dates when we can expect to see new trains.”
Ryan Flaherty, Serco’s managing director at Caledonian Sleeper, said: “Our new trains will mark a magical new chapter in rail travel in the UK. The new sleeper carriages are absolutely superb, and will transform the experience of travelling by train between Scotland and England.
“We are sorry that we will not be able to launch the service this autumn, and understand that customers who wanted to travel on them in 2018 will be disappointed.
“But with five different accommodation types, as well as on-board catering, dining and shower facilities, this is the most complex introduction of new rolling stock ever undertaken in the UK, and we are determined to get it right.”
Scottish Labour’s Colin Smyth said the case showed a private rail provider failing passengers.
“Under the franchise agreement, these new carriages should have been in place in April, that was then delayed until October – and now we learn they won’t be delivered until spring next year,” Mr Smyth said.
“SNP Transport Secretary Michael Matheson is right to demand a firm date for their introduction from Serco, but he should also be applying far greater pressure on the company to establish what has gone wrong in the first place.
Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Mike Rumbles said: “The Scottish Government has now announced a hat-trick of delays. All of the new and refurbished trains which were supposed to alleviate delays, overcrowding and uncomfortable journeys are now running late.
“People want to see evidence that their ticket costs are being invested in improving services and infrastructure, but promises have yet to be delivered. The Transport Secretary ought to be having sleepless nights over these delays.”