London to Scotland Caledonian Sleeper to be nationalised by Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon is to seize control of the Caledonian Sleeper, paving the way for the nationalisation of the train service that runs from the Scottish Highlands to London.
The Scottish government said that it would take over the line in June 2023, ending a contract with Serco seven years early. Ministers claimed services on the Caledonian Sleeper would be improved by being brought into public ownership.
Jenny Gilruth, Scotland’s transport minister said that she had served notice on Serco to terminate its contract on June 25 next year.
An attempt by Serco to renegotiate its contract had been “rejected on the grounds of not representing value for money to the public”, Ms Gilruth said.
The ousting of Serco came despite the SNP member of the Scottish parliament admitting that the company had “broadly, delivered well and significantly improved Caledonian Sleeper services over the last seven years”.
The Caledonian Sleeper has been operating in various forms since 1873, running overnight services from London to Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon has already nationalised ScotRail after kicking Dutch firm Abellio off the railways north of the border earlier this year.
Fiona Hyslop, the cabinet secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, said the Caledonian Sleeper decision “presents another opportunity to bring Scotland’s railways into Scotland’s hands”.
She added: “It is unfortunate that a deal has not been reached to continue the contract with Serco, but these contracts need to deliver value for money for the Scottish public.
“The Scottish government has already successfully brought ScotRail under public ownership and doing the same with the Caledonian Sleeper presents an opportunity to continue to improve the service provided to those travelling overnight between Edinburgh and London.”
Ms Sturgeon has frozen fares across Scotland’s railways while also caving into trade union pressure over pay rise demands since ScotRail was nationalised this spring.
Serco has run the London to Scotland service since 2015. Like many other services across the country, a subsidy payment to Serco was required to balance the books on the line.
Union leaders urged Ms Sturgeon to confirm that the operation of the Caledonian Sleeper would not return to private hands.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, said: “This decision is welcome, but we need a copper-bottomed guarantee that the Sleeper service will return to public hands for the long term, after what looks like an attempt by Serco to squeeze yet more from the taxpayer.
“The Scottish government seems to have left the door open to the return of Serco or other privateers, it should be slammed firmly in their faces.
“More private sector failure on Scotland’s railways is not an option. Our railways must be run in the interests of passengers, not profit.”