The Auld Alliance looks set to ride again with the appointment of top French chef, Albert Roux, to spearhead Scots cuisine on the new Caledonian Sleeper. A fleet of 72 new carriages, divided into four trains with up-market cafés, couchettes and showers has been promised by Serco, new operators of the 15 year franchise.
Let by the Scottish Government, the new Caledonian Sleeper will offer a real sense of Scotland and be used to boost Scottish businesses.
The Caledonian Sleeper operates four trains a night – two in each direction. The first runs between London Euston and Edinburgh and Glasgow Central. The second runs between London Euston and Inverness, Aberdeen and Fort William.
This, the Highland Sleeper, is divided into three, to ensure direct service to the three Scottish destinations. The other sleeper, the Lowland, is divided at Carstairs before continuing to Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively. The system operates in reverse every night. Aberdonian-based FirstGroup currently operates the sleeper as part of its ScotRail franchise. Sleepers carry 270,000 passengers a year. Originally, at privatisation, the fate of the Scottish sleeper services was thought parlous. However hard work by ScotRail staff – both on-board and marketing – has ensured its survival. Happily the sleeper is a popular feature in many tourist and business travel plans.
The new fleet will be built by CAF in Spain and leased through Beacon Rail – based in Boston, Massachusetts, London and Rotterdam. The trains will include en-suite berths in first class, reclining seats that can be repositioned as flat beds, and a brasserie-style Club Car. Serco runs luxury sleeper services in Australia.
Albert Roux, 78, will produce a new menu of Scottish–based food and drink. Although French, M’sieur Roux is a long time visitor to the Highlands. A keen fisherman, he can often be found fishing a succession of lochs and rivers. Says Roux, ‘For me, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland are paradise. I can have whole days where I catch nothing, but I still enjoy every second. I am a lover of nature and fishing.’ Look out for fresh fish on the menu a la – écossaises.