After delay after delay, excuse after excuse, we learn that the Highlands are not going to get new Caledonian Sleeper trains until September.

This is completely unacceptable. Continued attempts by Serco to blame delays on the process of getting new rolling stock is ridiculous. Surely, they already knew how long that takes?

As usual, the Highlands is the last place to get improvements, even though our need is greater.

Those furthest from England expect no less of a quality service. The new fleet, already used for lowlander services, has been beset with technical issues. And even when we do get them, will they even run on time? The service has the worst punctuality of any UK operator. We have been told we’ll be travelling in a “hotel on wheels”.

For Highlanders, getting the sleeper has been more like a low-budget hostel. Passengers waiting in “laybys” for hours may well have been worried it had become like the Hotel California – one they will never leave – until they get unceremoniously bundled into a replacement bus service in the middle of the night.


Meanwhile, the RMT union say the situation for staff is at “breaking point”, with insufficient staffing levels and training.

With this contract, Serco has not set off on time and the train doesn’t appear to be fully functional.

The company seems happy to talk to the media, but less willing to listen to their customers or staff.

And let’s not forget these trains have government money behind them. Our money.

I would encourage the Scottish Government to reflect on its decision to award this contract to such an unscrupulous company and urge them to bring Sleeper services back into public ownership at the earliest opportunity.

Our railways should be run in the interest of public service, not private profit.

  -  John Finnie is the Green Party MSP for the Highlands and Islands.