The Caledonian Sleeper service, which currently comprises two trains per day -London – Glasgow/Edinburgh and London – Aberdeen/Inverness/Fort William - is being separated out of the existing ScotRail franchise. Transport Scotland will invest between £50m and £60m, and although the tender document omits to say so, the British government will also invest £50m. This will enable the franchisee to either modernise the existing rolling stock, which is about 30 years old, or acquire a new fleet of trains.
The service had a turnover (excluding subsidy) of about £20m in 2011-12 but cost £25m to operate. The franchise agreement will include a mechanism for profit support, and it will be possible to rebase the subsidy during the franchise.
Transport Scotland says the investment coupled with the launch of a new brand and a reinvigorated approach to marketing should to lead to an increase in passenger numbers and revenues.
Transport Scotland plans to invite tenders from the top four potential operators in September with a view to announcing the successful bidder in June 2014. There will then be a nine-month mobilisation period with the new operator taking over in April 2015.