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Frustration for travellers

Sleeper setback as strike and delays hit new trains

Sleeper carriage

The new trains offer a higher level of comfort but have suffered setbacks


 

Rail travellers planning to travel on the new Caledonian Sleeper service are facing more disruption following the new trains’ troubled introduction last month.

Services to the north of Scotland have been delayed by a month because of problems dividing the new £150 million fleet. They will not start operating to Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen northbound until 7 July.

It follows a embarrassing late arrival of the trains on their inaugural run

Now rail staff are being ballotted on industrial action because of “stress” caused by the extra workload involved in servicing the trains.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has told operator Serco it is in dispute and officials are waiting approval for the vote from union leaders.

RMT regional organiser Gordon Martin said: “We had a meeting with the company on Friday when we informed them verbally we were in dispute. The introduction of the new rolling stock has caused a lot of stress among the workforce.”

On the prospect of a delay to northern services, Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Mike Rumbles MSP said: “The lack of preparation for this service is astonishing. The sleeper train is a vital link for people from the North of Scotland to the rest of the UK. The contract is already a year overdue, now passengers are being told they will have to wait another month for the service to begin.




“What makes matters worse is that many people have already reserved their tickets and some of them may have booked the trip just to experience the new trains. I cannot believe that the Scottish Government and Serco have come to this realisation only 13 days before launch.

“I can’t remember the last time the Scottish Government managed to deliver a major infrastructure project on time. This is yet more bad news for our transport network in Scotland.”

Caledonian Sleeper managing director Ryan Flaherty said: “As we now look forward to the arrival of the iconic Highland Caledonian Sleeper trains, we are determined to ensure each and every carriage is ready for our guests when we bring them into service.

“The new service has been years in the making and its introduction into service has been a hugely complex undertaking with many challenges.

“Additionally, the Highland route is significantly more complicated than the Lowland route, and this is a key factor in our decision to phase in the introduction of the new trains.




“It will give us the ability to closely monitor how the trains are performing and ensure we can provide a consistently high-quality service for guests.

“We appreciate guests on the Highland route won’t be travelling on new trains as expected in June, but we believe this decision ensures guests will receive the quality service they expect from the new trains.

“By the second week in July our new trains will be operating across all routes.”

It is understood that manufacturer Caf has not supplied sufficient vehicles in a service-ready state, to allow Caledonian Sleeper to commence its Highlander service as planned.
Transport Secretary said: “”While further delay is extremely disappointing for all involved, it is important to ensure trains are introduced in exemplary condition, and with a focus on quality of provision that will benefit the service in the long term.
“It is unfortunate that some passengers have already booked travel on the basis that new trains would be introduced on 2 June.”


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