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The return of sleeper trains

Forget flights, it’s time to get on board and bed down on the UK’s revamped sleeper trains

The return of sleeper trains
Cocktails on board GWR's Night Riviera service

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You’d be forgiven for thinking no-frills airlines had meant the end of sleeper trains. While it’s true many overnight services have gone the way of the Orient Express as gleaming, luxurious incarnations — sleeper cars are making a bit of a comeback. Whether it’s down to a more eco-minded attitude or the trend for slow travel, we’re getting back on board with the nostalgic old-timers. Just in time, as the UK’s sleeper trains have had a serious facelift.

Caledonian Sleeper
Heading north of the border? This month, the Caledonian Sleeper is introducing its first new trains in more than 30 years. Initially on the ‘lowland’ routes to Edinburgh and Glasgow, the new trains will start serving stations in the Highlands from early 2019. And it’s all change on board: sleeper compartments come with hotel-style keycards, adjustable thermostats and free wi-fi, with en suite shower rooms available in the higher categories. If you want to splash out, upgrade to a suite and you’ll also get a double bed — a first in the UK. There’s good news for wheelchair users, too, as each train comes with an accessible room. Feeling peckish? Head to the smart Club Car with its suitably Scotland-centric food menu on offer. 

Night Riviera
Great Western Railway recently revamped all the sleeper carriages on its Night Riviera service between Cornwall and the capital.
It opened new station lounges at Truro and Penzance, too, where travellers can jump in the shower before catching a train. On board, the new compartments are kitted out with basins and, like the Caledonian Sleeper, have modern keycard door locks, air conditioning and free wi-fi, plus USB charging points. There’s a wheelchair-accessible room on each service, and the first of the Night Riviera’s new cocktail-style lounge bars has just opened too, with more on the way.  

Published in the October 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)