Charles Kennedy MP writes…How you can help save our Sleeper

Charles with the Caledonian Sleeper

The Caledonian sleeper services are a Scottish institution, a symbol of the comfort and style which was once the hallmark of the railways. They are invaluable for connecting the more remote parts of the Highlands to the UK Capital, allowing Scottish people to reach morning meetings in England and Londoners to catch the Deerstalker Express straight to the most beautiful places in the world. I’ve lost count of the number of individuals & businesses who have been in touch over the years to tell me just how important the sleeper is to them.

However, like a bad penny, the question of cancelling the sleeper has rolled around once again. The SNP Government in Holyrood has launched a consultation on the future of Scotland’s railways. Typically of the SNP’s centralising attitude, the document is myopically focused on the central belt, even suggesting that all cross-border services could terminate at Edinburgh Waverley and that night-time services could be abandoned altogether. It shows a shocking level of disinterest in the Highlands and other rural areas of Scotland that the Nationalists are putting these proposals forward.

It’s true, of course, that the sleeper services need improvement. The booking system is unhelpful to say the least, making it difficult to book the service reliably, even months in advance. The rolling stock itself dates from the 1970s, rendering it unsuitable in the eyes of modern travellers and, more importantly, modern disabilities legislation. These are serious issues which require a serious response.

New trains could bring our sleeper services up to the standard of those on the continent, which can carry more passengers in greater comfort. This would not only improve the service, but bring it to a more sustainable position financially. Thankfully, the UK Government has made an offer of £50 million – half the cost of replacing the trains – to Holyrood, as long as the Scottish Government is willing to put up the rest of the funds. This gives us the opportunity to secure the future of the sleeper for decades ahead– it’s a chance we can’t afford to miss.

I’ll be fighting tooth and nail to save our sleeper, and I urge everyone to respond to the consultation before it closes on the 20th February, either online (at or by writing to Transport Scotland, 58 Port Dundas Road, Glasgow G4 0HF. Previous campaigns to retain the service have been successful, but only with hard work and commitment from campaigners around the country.

I believe we can win again this time if we stand together.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Scotland.


  • Of course another way to help is to use it! In addition to being a lifeline to communities, the sleeper is far more civilised and relaxed than flying, as well as having far better environmental credentials. It would be even more economic if the costs of developing new trains could also be shared with the Night Riviera – any Cornish members care to comment?

  • Paul McKeown 14th Dec '11 - 2:38pm

    Any possibility of running continental sleeper services, say Paris, Brussels, Cologne or Amsterdam to and from Scotland? Twice a week, Sunday night out, Friday night back, for instance? Surely the distances involved are ideal?

  • Elizabeth Patterson 14th Dec '11 - 3:13pm

    I would be more sympathetic in supporting Charles’ constituency interests if I saw more of him in parliamentary debates.
    I was a great fan, heaped blame on the PP when he was deposed, worked for his leadership election campaign and was really upset by the coup..
    But my idol does seem to have fallen; I have only seen Charles on our benches when it has been a constituency interest, like boundary changes.
    It would have been nice if he had contributed to the present Europe debate. I contrast his absence with the energy and activity of Ming Campbell. Although I did not want him as leader I have to admit that Ming has survived the humiliations of media scorn to be a very able contributor in debates.
    Now that we can watch parliament on i-player party members are much more aware of what does (or doesn’t) go on!

  • Charles, comment done, but you need to make it easier for people. For example, rather than searching the transport scotland site, here’s the URL for the consultation:
    When you get to the consultation there are 28 questions which may be useful but are not relevant to cross border services – so I have written in Question 1 “Please go to Question 29” and I have then said my bit. And saved it and emailed it back.
    Remember, “qui tacet consentet” – so it is to the advantage of those who wish to cut crossborder service if people don’t reply. So make it easy for your supporters to do so!

  • Dr Damian G Moran 18th May '14 - 10:01pm

    I entirely agree with Charles Kennedy, whom I consider, whilst not sharing his political views, the most impressive politician in the British parliament.

    I have interests in Edinburgh, both heretidge and children and agree that the Caledonian Sleeper is an institution and need s to be preserved at any cost. My son Tom is on the Lowlander as we speak, which he loves and enables him to make the most of the day in London and be back at his desk at home in Edinburgh in the morning.

    I look forward to my journey to Aberdeen at the end of the month for the OGUK Medical Examiner’s Meeting on the sleeper!!

    Long may it live!!

    Dr Damian G Moran
    Occupational Physician

  • Dr Damian G Moran 4th Jun '15 - 7:21pm

    I have just read my original posting in the light of Charles Kennedy’s tragic and very sad death. A very sad and premature end to the life of a top quality politician and man. Sadly we will now not be privy to the contribution that his life after an MP might have been. The rejuvanated Caledonian Sleeper will no doubt prove to be one of his many legacies.

    Dr Damian G Moran
    Occupational Physician

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