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Serco wins Caledonian Sleeper service franchise

Transport Scotland has selected Serco Group plc to manage the new 15-year franchise for the Caledonian Sleeper service which is to be operated separately from the main ScotRail franchise, currently run by FirstGroup.  

From April 2015, Serco will be responsible for operating all aspects of the Caledonian Sleeper including marketing, sales, passenger services, station facilities and fleet maintenance. 

Additionally, more than £100m will be invested in new rolling stock which, together with many other innovative changes, will give an improved customer experience for those traveling between London and Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Fort William, Glasgow, Inverness and many other Scottish towns and cities. 

The new fleet, to be built by leading rolling stock manufacturer CAF, will be leased to Serco by Beacon Rail, and is expected to be introduced by the summer of 2018.  

Rupert Soames, Serco Group chief executive officer, said: “Serco has a strong track record of providing high quality and efficient rail services around the world, as well as experience in managing large-scale tourism-focussed transport services. 

“I am delighted that we can use this unique blend of expertise to transform the iconic Caledonian Sleeper into a modern, high quality hospitality service to make Scotland proud.” 

The new Caledonian Sleeper service is expected to provide an estimated £800m in total revenues to Serco over the 15-year franchise period, of which approximately £180m will be in the form of franchise payments. 

Tim O’Toole, FirstGroup's chief executive, said:  “I would like to thank all of our employees who have worked hard to deliver the best possible service for Caledonian Sleeper customers over the past ten years. We submitted a strong bid which would have offered further high quality services for passengers and a good return for taxpayers. 

“We have operated the current ScotRail franchise since 2004, providing more than 2,300 services per day, and over that time the franchise has achieved record highs in passenger numbers and also in customer satisfaction scores. We will continue to provide sleeper passengers with the best possible service until the new franchise commences, and will work closely with the new operator to ensure a seamless handover.” 

However, the franchise award has received some criticism. RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: “The union is deeply concerned that this important and prestigious service has been awarded to Serco, a company with a truly shocking track record in the delivery of public services. Quite frankly, with their appalling list of failures in the UK and globally they should never have even been considered as contenders for the Scottish sleeper service. The logical option of public ownership was not even looked at.” 

RMT added that it will be meeting with other rail unions to discuss the franchise award. Cash added: “But I can make it crystal clear that if there is any threat to the jobs and conditions of the staff transferring across from First to Serco it will be met with fierce resistance including the use of industrial action if required.” 

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