Railcard bombshell

23 January

Latest sleeper bombshell - Serco to abolish railcard discounts on shared cabin tickets

Not content with attempting to withdraw the singles sharing option, Serco Caledonian Sleeper are now trying to sneak in a change as a result of which many customers will find that their railcards will no longer be honoured on the sleeper.  Julian has discovered a page on the www.sleeper.scot website which states that from 25 February railcard discounts will no longer be available for any shared cabin bookings.  The relevant sections for just two of the types of railcard available read:

"Journeys up to 24 February 2018

  • 16 -25 Railcard - If you are aged between 16 and 25 years of age,or are a mature student in full-time education you are eligible for a 16-25 railcard. With up to 33% discount these are a great way to save money.
  • Senior Railcard - If you are over 60 you can save 1/3 off rail fares. Buying a three year Senior Railcard represents a further saving.

Journeys from 25 February 2018

  • 16 -25 Railcard - If you are aged between 16 and 25 years of age or are a mature student in full-time education you are eligible for a 16-25 railcard.  A 1/3 discount is available on solo room and seated products.
  • Senior Railcard - If you are over 60 you can save 1/3 off rail fares. A 1/3 discount is available on solo room and seated products."

As with the proposed withdrawal of the singles sharing option, this change to the availability of railcard discounts contravenes the franchise agreement between Serco Caledonian Sleeper and the Scottish Government.  The Franchise Document says Caledonian Sleeper will honour

"4. Discount Fare Schemes

4.1. ATOC Disabled Persons Railcard Scheme dated 23 July 1995 between the participants named therein;
4.2. ATOC 16-25 Railcard Scheme dated 23 July 1995 between the participants named therein; and
4.3. ATOC Senior Railcard Scheme dated 23 July 1995 between the participants named therein.
4.4. Scottish Youth Railcard under the Young Scot NEC Card."

(ATOC is the Association of Train Operating Companies).

With regard to singles sharing Serco say that Transport Scotland has agreed to this ticket type being withdrawn before the introduction of the new train fleet, but no justification, evidence or documentation has been produced by either party to support this assertion, and the same lack of transparency can be expected in this case.  It is outrageous that the franchise agreement for the sleeper service should be changed by secret agreements, and it should not be necessary to have to lodge a Freedom of Information request (as Julian has done), in order to make public the reasons for, and details of, these agreements.

You can see the full page about the proposed railcard changes at  https://www.sleeper.scot/tickets-timetables/railcards

[This page has been changed from 1 February to show the current Railcard discounts, after the policy change to revert to the existing fares structure until October 2018.]

Julian has sent John Finnie (Highlands MSP and Green Party transport spokesman), who had already agreed to pursue enquiries into the singles sharing withdrawal, an email about this latest issue, which concluded  "I hope you will be able to support a FoI request on how the company has been allowed to do this, and take this up in parliament.  Naturally I hope this new policy can be reversed",  and has had a positive response.

Other recent developments in the sleeper campaign -

Julian has submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for the release of correspondence between Transport Scotland and Serco Caledonian Sleeper relating to the withdrawal of the singles sharing option, and received an acknowledgment from the Rail Franchise Management Unit of Transport Scotland.

Article in Scotland on Sunday 21 January by Alastair Dalton, Transport Correspondent - "Sharing with stranger on Scotland-London sleeper train to be banned."

Article in Ross-shire Journal  19 January, quoting Julian Paren and sleeper spokesman - "Sleeper fare withdrawal is a 'bombshell."

Julian has sent an email to Peter Strachan, Chairman of Serco Caledonian Sleeper, about Flat Beds on the new sleeper trains (this could be the next contentious issue);

and also sent another letter to the Inverness Courier, which did not print the letter he sent last week in response to the 'Strangers in the night. . ' article in their issue of 12 January.

We have found that single passengers can still share a two-berth compartment on the UK's only other rail sleeper service, the 'Night Riviera' from Paddington to Penzance run by First Great Western, with certain types of ticket.  They can choose a 'sleeper supplement' to a seat ticket, at £45 to share or £70 for single occupancy.

Finally, if you haven't yet signed the petition calling for the retention of the singles sharing option, please do so now, and circulate it as widely as you can among all those you think might be concerned  about this issue.

PM

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