#924847 by Sealink
11 Aug 2016, 23:23
LONDON to INVERNESS, 05 AUGUST 2016

This would be my third trip this year on the sleeper.

Would this journey maintain the high standards I had previously encountered?

London to Inverness 1

London to Inverness 2

Read on!

Leaving London at 2115 on Friday evening, arriving Inverness at 0838 on Saturday morning, it was perfect for the limited time I had away from work.

Leaving work later than planned at 8pm, Friday night in Mayfair was in full swing.

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An Uber was available instantly and I was in Euston in no time (despite him missing the turn off, the drop off was slightly more convenient!)

It was a warm summers evening in London.

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Euston was as busy as you'd expect on a Friday night.

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The area around the Virgin First Class lounge (which Sleeper passengers have access to) was still a building site, but was looking much better than on previous visits. No doubt this will be full of new retail outlets...

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The lounge was quieter than I'd experienced previously, mainly because I've learnt to avoid it like the plague between 6pm and 8pm!

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I tend to head to the 'business' section where there are desks and charging points. It does have the feel of a police interrogation room....

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My train was announced and I headed to Platform 1, stopping to take a few pics of Euston.

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Mind your head on the escalator....

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I always stop at the station sign as it actually says "21:15 to Fort William, Aberdeen & Inverness". By the looks of it, my train was going via Aberdeen, however this was not the case.

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Here is a view of the rather dank platforms...

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Along to the train...

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The same gentleman checked me in as on my second trip, but there were a few discrepancies between each trip.
The first time, he told me that he could see that I had a reserved a dinner, and a table had been reserved for me.
On this trip, I couldn't actually remember if I'd booked a table, and he couldn't tell me.
A tiny tiny thing, but still... would have been nice if they were able to tell me.

I was also pleased to see that I had the more traditional lounge car, with sofas and tables...

So, I left my suitcase in my cabin first...

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The amenity kit includes pillow spray, ear plugs, soap and shower gel etc. (Not that there are any showers on board, however there is a lovely welcome centre in Inverness where one can have a shower)... the cabin does have a washbasin however with plentiful hot and cold running water so freshening up is possible.

To the lounge car! With some seriously slow people boarding, it was quicker for me to jump off the train and walk along the platform to the carriage.

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This is the more traditional lounge car, which, I thought I preferred. I was wrong.

The train was packed and the lounge car was busy. I had a table reserved so had somewhere to sit, but was disturbed several times by people asking for the other seat, which was also reserved. I was a bit miffed that the lounge was full of people eating pre-packed lunches... other people coming to buy a meal had to stand, which I didn't think was fair. I really think priority should be given to those purchasing a meal. But then again, if you purchase a meal during the booking process they will reserve a table for you.

The menus have been refreshed for summer.

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Thankfully, Haggis Neeps and Tatties were on the menu!

A bottle of Malbec first... (£18)

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It's tastier than it looks!

Followed by some cheese...
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And then several of these...

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And soon, there was just myself in the lounge...

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The steward advised that due to a fatality at Leyland Station we would definitely be late (more on the later)

I went to bed, and turned out the lights...

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For the second time now, I have slept through the decoupling of the train at Edinburgh... which is saying something. I woke up at Stirling Station so had about 4 1/2 hours of pretty solid sleep.

On previous trips I had asked for breakfast to be served in the lounge car, but this time they were unable to do this as they were so busy with big parties, so breakfast would be in the cabin.

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Note the four UBS charging points...! Not every train has this and this is the first time I have had this in my cabin.

Breakfast was served.

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I had hoped to grab forty winks but it was not to be - my door was knocked by the steward offering me a "Delay Repay" form (well done for being so proactive!).

Then five minutes later to take my breakfast tray back.

Then ten minutes later to take the tea pot back.

Then ten minutes later to advise of our actual arrival time in Inverness.

Just time to admire the scenery approaching Inverness

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So I was fairly tired by the time I arrived in Inverness.

These two engines hauled us north from Edinburgh.

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I had about an hours wait for my train north, so went over to the 'Welcome Centre'.

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Seriously taste crisps!

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They also have really lovely showers there but my 'welcome' was conditional - the place would be closing at 1000am.

As I was leaving I was told 'Oh, we weren't told the train was delayed, you can stay longer if you need too...' which was just odd. Still, another 10 minutes somewhere nicer than Inverness Railway Station was not to be sneezed at.

My train to Thurso and Wick was boarding. It's a two carriage train and often standing room only from Inverness to Dingwall.

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Plenty of free seats today.

These trains have been re-designed inside so the majority of seats are 'table' seats, line up with the windows... the first class section was always declassified (which meant if you were fast, you could get a seat with a socket to charge your phone!)... and that area is now gone.

As are all the charging sockets. Not sure if this is temporary, it was certainly disappointing.

No, that isn't a handy lift up lid. The charging points don't work so they have been covered up. Hope this is temporary.

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The scenery made up for it... while I had power!

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So, all in all, the journey on the Sleeper didn't quite have the magic of my first two trips.
But it was still enjoyable, and more convenient that staying overnight at an airport hotel for an early flight from Luton or Gatwick, and about £80 cheaper than BA from Heathrow to Inverness - a journey which would have required a 6am start on Saturday morning.

Yes I was disturbed about five times but the intention was good, and very pro-active with the Delay Repay forms - I am due a 50% refund on my journey. Which makes me think that Delay Repay is a crude way of compensating - yes, I was about 45 minutes late into Inverness, but I had 90 minute connection for my next train, so I was not actually delayed.

Then again, if this was my previous trip and I had a 1000am flight from Inverness then I can see why the compensation would be good. I digress.

The Caledonian Sleeper is the last real train service in the country, with staff who are engaged and care about their passengers. I can't wait for my next trip!!!
#924848 by jfenney
11 Aug 2016, 23:58
Thanks for the informative TR Billy so great and you make the journey come alive with your photos. :-D
#924849 by buns
12 Aug 2016, 05:59
Sealink

Thank you for such a wonderful vignette about a journey where time seems to have stood still.

In this day and age where we are all fixated on speed and bang for buck (Easyjet and Ryanair) it is great to see there are still ways to get up to Scotland where you can arrive relaxed.

Thanks for evoking memories

buns
#924855 by dickydotcom
12 Aug 2016, 07:36
Great TR as always.
Love the photos.
Dick D
#924896 by ColOrd
13 Aug 2016, 05:49
Sealink wrote:LThe Caledonian Sleeper is the last real train service in the country, with staff who are engaged and care about their passengers. I can't wait for my next trip!!!


As a professional who works in the railway industry in the UK I would like to proffer that that is not actually the case, and there are thousands of committed, caring, engaged staff out there who are very passionate about delivering a good service for their customers, admittedly, current issues with various unions may not allow that to come through clearly!

That being said, Sealink, that was a wonderful TR, I love the Caledonian sleeper myself, although I haven't been on it for about 4 years!

I am curious as to your observations, as the franchisee for the sleeper changed hands last year and it is now operated by Serco instead of the Scotrail franchise and a lot of people have heavily criticised Serco for their mis-management of the service with some real cut backs in customer service and on board provision, as well as terrible reliability caused by a cut back maintenance regime, I'm glad to see you've had a positive few experiences, but I am curious if you can compare the two companies and if you noticed a difference?

In terms of hard product, have you seen the mock up designs of the new coaches?

https://www.sleeper.scot/news/155-trans ... an-sleeper
#924898 by slinky09
13 Aug 2016, 07:12
I agree with Buns, that service harks to the past but is welcome for it. Loved the detail, thanks.
#924899 by hiljil
13 Aug 2016, 08:20
Thank you for once again providing an interesting, different & evocative TR. I really enjoyed it & loved the photos.
#924940 by pjh
14 Aug 2016, 18:04
Another terrific TR. thanks for the taking the time and effort in putting it together.
#924947 by honey lamb
14 Aug 2016, 22:38
pjh wrote:Another terrific TR. thanks for the taking the time and effort in putting it together.

*cough, cough* There's a few TRs outstanding from you. :-P
#924961 by pjh
15 Aug 2016, 08:01
honey lamb wrote:
pjh wrote:Another terrific TR. thanks for the taking the time and effort in putting it together.

*cough, cough* There's a few TRs outstanding from you. :-P


My creative muse was somewhat disrupted by an HL like post trip experience. Having been dropped off by the EK CDC service, we pootled around in the kitchen and downstairs for a while making tea and toast, sorting the post and saying a silent thanks for the house being in once piece and there having been no freezer content destroying power cuts. Following a call of nature I ventured upstairs and noticed some small indentations in the carpet, a bit like stiletto heels. Hmmm, I thought. Then something dripped on me. Looking up I could see the internal wall was soaked right through and water dripping.

Several hours of climbing into spaces I'd rather not climb into and a call to an emergency plumber who could find no evident leak leave us now with a puzzle. There is evidence of the cold water overflow having been active; did this find a weak spot in the roof tiles? It also leaves us with having to find a roofer, a plasterer and a decorator. B*gger.

It feels a a bit like some kind of karmic payback for having such a wonderful time in South Africa. :-O TRs will follow soon, I promise, including the internal flight that featured our being told of boarding "I see you have been assigned seat D. There are no D seats on this aircraft".
#924964 by honey lamb
15 Aug 2016, 09:45
pjh wrote:
honey lamb wrote:
pjh wrote:Another terrific TR. thanks for the taking the time and effort in putting it together.

*cough, cough* There's a few TRs outstanding from you. :-P


My creative muse was somewhat disrupted by an HL like post trip experience. Having been dropped off by the EK CDC service, we pootled around in the kitchen and downstairs for a while making tea and toast, sorting the post and saying a silent thanks for the house being in once piece and there having been no freezer content destroying power cuts. Following a call of nature I ventured upstairs and noticed some small indentations in the carpet, a bit like stiletto heels. Hmmm, I thought. Then something dripped on me. Looking up I could see the internal wall was soaked right through and water dripping.

Several hours of climbing into spaces I'd rather not climb into and a call to an emergency plumber who could find no evident leak leave us now with a puzzle. There is evidence of the cold water overflow having been active; did this find a weak spot in the roof tiles? It also leaves us with having to find a roofer, a plasterer and a decorator. B*gger.

It feels a a bit like some kind of karmic payback for having such a wonderful time in South Africa. :-O TRs will follow soon, I promise, including the internal flight that featured our being told of boarding "I see you have been assigned seat D. There are no D seats on this aircraft".

Oh dear! Yes, it does resonate with some of my dramas, the only difference being that my water related ones always occurred on the morning of my departure!
Virgin Atlantic

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