Caledonian Sleeper Franchise Update

John Whitehurst, Managing Director of Serco’s Transport business, said: “When Serco took over the Caledonian Sleeper service in April 2015, we inherited an unreliable and outdated fleet of carriages dating back to the 1970s.

“We are extremely proud that under our leadership and management we have introduced new rolling stock and other significant innovations that have completely transformed the service. The service that Serco provides today is widely recognised as being outstanding, providing hotel standard service and accommodation that is renowned and admired around the world and loved by the people who travel on it.  We thank the Minister for her warm words recognising the achievements of the Serco Caledonian Sleeper team.

The contract that was signed in 2014 included a ‘rebase clause’ that meant that, after seven years of the 15-year Franchise, Serco could present to the Scottish Government alternative financial arrangements for the remaining years of the Franchise.  The Government and Serco were not able to reach agreement on these revised terms, and accordingly the Franchise will now end in June 2023, at which point, unless other arrangements can be agreed, Serco will hand back the management of the Sleeper to the Scottish Government.

“We note that the Government’s decision not to accept our proposals has not been made due to any performance issues; from Serco’s point of view the service has been loss-making over the life of the contract and the proposals that we made to Transport Scotland were to put it on a more sustainable financial footing.  We will continue to work with Transport Scotland around options for the future management of the service and in the meantime will continue to deliver a world-class service for our guests.”

Mackie’s on track with Caledonian Sleeper partnership

Caledonian Sleeper guests will be welcomed by a sweet treat from Mackie’s of Scotland following a newly-signed partnership.

From this month, the Aberdeenshire firm’s 35g chocolate bars will be included as a complimentary welcome gift as part of the Caledonian Sleeper in-room offering for guests booked in Caledonian Double Rooms and Club Rooms.

Caledonian Sleeper managing director Kathryn Darbandi with Mac Mackie, Managing Director of Mackie’s
Caledonian Sleeper managing director Kathryn Darbandi with Mac Mackie, Managing Director of Mackie’s

Mackie’s chocolate and crisps range will also feature in the on-board room service and Club Car menus, which showcase the best of Scottish produce.

The partnership brings together two organisations which are passionate about sustainability. Using the Caledonian Sleeper ensures up to 90%* less emissions than equivalent plane travel, making it one of the most environmentally friendly ways to make the journey between London and Scotland.

Caledonian Sleeper is also taking steps to improve the sustainability of its on-board operations, having committed to ensuring that no waste from the trains will be transferred to landfill, and instead waste is either recycled or recovered when the trains are cleaned after use.

Pioneers in renewable energy, Mackie’s renewably produces more than twice as much energy than it uses courtesy of its wind turbines, solar farm and biomass. This year sees the completion of its £4.5million low carbon refrigeration project – which could slash its CO2 emissions by up to 80%.

Mac Mackie, Managing Director at Mackie’s of Scotland, said: “The Caledonian Sleeper connects some of the UK’s best destinations and we’re delighted to be providing a taste of Scotland for passengers to enjoy along the way.

“As a family business, we’re used to investing in the future, to try and protect the environment for generations to come. This has been one the key drivers for the partnership – as well as the desire to expand our product’s accessibility.

“We’re looking forward to seeing our single serve bars ‘on tour’ across the UK, bringing a little lift in every bite.”

Kathryn Darbandi, Serco’s Managing Director for Caledonian Sleeper, said: “We’re proud to partner with Mackie’s, an iconic Scottish brand that shares our passion for sustainability, and we’re confident today marks the beginning of a long and popular partnership.

“We understand that our exciting food and drink menu, packed with the very best produce that Scotland has to offer, is a staple of the Caledonian Sleeper service. Guests are taken on a culinary tour of Scotland as we transport them to their destination in style, and we’re delighted to count Mackie’s as one of our valued partners.”

Caledonian Sleeper is an overnight rail service bringing you the flavours of Scotland and comfort as guests are transported both north and south between London and some of Scotland’s biggest cities and stunning rural destinations.

In 2014, Mackie’s of Scotland converted a tractor shed into a chocolate factory and began making a range of milk and dark chocolate bars – in flavours reminiscent of its ice cream range.

To find out more about Mackie’s, please visit:

Celebrating Pride Month

Throughout June, Pride month is a celebration of people coming together in love and friendship, to show how far LGBTQ+ rights have come.

At Caledonian Sleeper we are shining the spotlight on our LGBTQ+ Caledonian Sleeper colleagues David Bree (Sleeper Team Leader) and Dougie Bree (Sleeper Train Manager) who recently celebrated their marriage to talk about their journey, love and what pride means to them.

Can you tell us how you both met?

Both: We were both Cabin Managers at our previous flying jobs. So, it was work that brought us together.

You recently tied the knot. Tell us a bit more about the day and how it feels to be married now?

Both: We did. The 25 September 2021 was our big day where we wed at Glenskirlie Castle. We worked hard whenever we could to save up to have exactly what we wanted, and it all went perfect.

June is dedicated to celebrating the Pride movement and how far LBGTQ+ rights have come. What does Pride mean for you both?

Dougie: Pride for me is about acceptance. Being allowed to be who you are without prejudice.​​​​​​

Davie: Without pride we would not have made the progress we have, where we are mostly in a society where everyone is accepted. It is a remarkable time of the year to bring everyone together.

Above: Davie and Dougie on their wedding day in September last year.

How has it been to be part of the LGBTQ+ community at Caledonian Sleeper?

Dougie: Caledonian Sleeper have a great LGBTQ+ community spirit between all the staff and I think that’s great. It’s not just us within that community that celebrate and enjoy it which is brilliant for allowing people to be who they are.

Davie: Being part of Serco means you can be yourself it does not matter, gender, sexuality etc, you are invited to be you, acceptance is not a question you are accepted be who you wish to be, you will have support across the full board.​​​​​​​

What is the main reason LGBT+ people do not come out in the workplace?

Davie: Coming out in the workplace means feeling comfortable within yourself, not worrying about prejudice, acceptance or what people think. It’s about having the courage to live happily and be able to be yourself.

Dougie: I think people like to be a bit private, work is just work at the end of the day. I do think people are more accepting nowadays but I still think people might prefer to keep work and life separate.

If you were to give anyone struggling to be themselves openly one piece of advice, what would it be?

Dougie: Speak to likeminded people. I think it can be difficult and daunting at first, but it was the best move I made when I came out and was able to be myself and be accepted.

Davie: My advice to anyone struggling would be to look at where even I have come from to the happy life I now lead, and anyone can.​​​​​​​

What can organisation’s done to ensure LGBTQ+ community members feel included in the workplace?

Davie: Even to celebrate pride month and to have it mentioned will ensure that the LGBTQ+ community are recognised, and this really matters

Dougie: I think by talking about LGBTQ+, Pride events is a great way for community members to feel they matter and included and by exactly this… being asked to tell our story.

We have often heard the tag line of “love is love”. What does this mean to you both?

Dougie: ‘Love is Love’ for me is about someone meeting their soulmate, the person (no matter who they are) they chose to be partnered with or fall in love with.

Davie: Love is love – whether you are gay, straight, bisexual

Thank you to Davie and Dougie for sharing their story of love, acceptance and pride.

A Railway Pioneer

On International Women’s Day we’re going to look at a little-known female railway pioneer whose innovations are still making passengers’ journeys better 100 years on from her first work.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1885, Olive Dennis was a railway engineering pioneer.

Enrolling at Goucher College Baltimore in 1908 she earned a Batchelor of Arts before studying for a Master’s degree in Mathematics from Columbia University.

She worked as a teacher at a technical high school for 10 years before studying Civil Engineering at Cornell University, graduating in one year instead of the normal two years.

In 1921 Olive started working for Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as a civil engineering draftsman.

At the time it was so unusual a newspaper headline written about her appointment said “Women Civil Engineer Enjoys Technical Work.”

Soon after joining Baltimore and Ohio Railways she designed her first railroad bridge in Painsville Ohio.

After completion of the bridge, Dennis was quoted saying “There is no reason an engineer can’t be an engineer simply because no other woman has ever been one. A woman can achieve anything if she tries hard enough.”

Moving into a new role as Engineer of Service, Dennis was a hands-on engineer, travelling on routes to test designs for improving passenger comfort, averaging 50,000 miles per year on, testing seat and mattress designs.

Some of the innovations we take for granted on the railways today are all the fruit of Olive’s imagination including partially reclining seats, dimmable overhead lights and stain resistant upholstery for seats.

Her work was praised by the Baltimore Sun who described her as ‘The woman who took the pain out of the train”

In 1931 she helped to implement the world’s first air-conditioned train, a luxury enjoyed by rail passengers today.

In 1947 she designed an entire train, The Cincinnatian, which incorporated all of her design improvements.

Olive was the first female member of American Railway Engineering Association and was elected a member of the British Women’s Engineering society.

Retiring in 1951, Olive Dennis left her mark on the global railway industry before passing away in 1957, aged 71.

We’ll leave her story with a quote which rings as true today as it was when she said it – “No matter how successful a business may be, it can gain greater success if it gives consideration to a woman’s viewpoint.”

Escape with Sophie Radcliffe

Sophie Radcliffe is an adventure athlete, blogger, writer and motivational speaker.

She is the only person in history to have climbed the highest mountains in the eight Alpine countries and cycled between them, climbing five times the height of Mount Everest in 32 days.

Her mission is to champion ordinary people achieving extraordinary things, to empower you to feel invincible and as though you can do the most badass, inspiring and challenging things that scare and excite you in equal measure. To explore what your body and mind can do through the world of adventure and endurance sport.

Sophie took a trip on the Caledonian Sleeper and was inspired by what she found in Scotland. She shared her experience in a video.

Find out more about Sophie Radcliffe at

Caledonian Sleeper raises money for Rail Aid 2021

Dubbed ‘the railway’s answer to Children in Need’ Rail Aid is a yearly fundraiser run by the Railway Children and UK Rail. The first Rail Aid in 2020 raised over £537,000 to give life-changing support to street children in the UK, India and Africa. This year Rail Aid 2021 has aimed to raise even more money for Railway Children.

Every year thousands of children across the UK, India and Africa run away or are forced to leave homes that have become unbearable through poverty, abuse, violence and neglect. Railway Children aims to reach children as soon as they hit the streets – before the streets get to them.

So far, Rail Aid 2021 has raised over £600,000 with £170,000 coming from Rail Aid’s Gala Auction. Caledonian Sleeper helped raise £4270 with our donations of Club room trips to the Gala Auction. We also helped raise an additional £2260 with the top prize of a trip from London to Edinburgh including a one-night stay at the Apex Waterloo Place Hotel.

We raised funds for for Rail Aid 2021 by donating all proceeds from our signature Haggis, Neeps & Tatties dish on all of our Caledonian Sleeper services throughout December 2021. In total we sold 210 portions of the dish, raising a total of £1837.50

This brings the total Caledonian Sleeper helped to raise to £8730.50.

Well done to everyone involved!

For more information on Rail Aid 2021 please visit Rail Aid – United for Street Children