Serco awarded contract to run the famous Caledonian Sleeper railway line

 

One of the world’s great railway journeys, the overnight Caledonian Sleeper between London Euston and the Scottish Highlands is to be operated by controversial outsourcing giant Serco.

Unions reacted with dismay at news of the award of the 15-year contract to the company which is currently at the centre of a criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over allegations of overcharging.  

Serco, which runs the controversial Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre where it is also facing an inquiry by MPs into claims of sexual harassment by staff, was accused of having a “truly shocking record” in delivering public services, by the acting leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

Passenger groups welcomed the prospect of the company’s promise to invest £100 million in new rolling stock but said they would be monitoring performance to make sure it delivered on the upgrade to include en-suite berths and a new brasserie-style club car.

Serco, which runs outsourced services in more than 30 countries including air traffic control, prisons, and back-office support, was banned from competing for Government contracts in the wake of the overcharging scandal although this was lifted earlier this year.

It already operates Northern Rail, Merseyrail and the Docklands Light Railway.

The Scottish Government, which awarded the contract, said it had “no choice” but to give it the franchise from First Group from next April. Serco said it estimated revenue to be around £800 million over the course of the deal but said it had no plans to activate a break clause in the contract which it was claimed could allow it to walk away in the event of Scottish independence.

Bruce Williamson of Railfuture, which represents 20,000 train users, said passengers would welcome the new operator provided it could deliver the service upgrade for the route which has seen a sharp increase in popularity.

“Serco has of course had some difficulties in other areas where it provides public services, but the promise of new trains with improved facilities is very welcome. I trust that the standard of accommodation will be less spartan than in some of its prisons,” he said.

The RMT union's acting general secretary Mick Cash said the company should never have been considered to run the service.

“Serco is a company that has a reputation for promising the earth and delivering quite the opposite as they seek to maximise profits and sweat their assets for every single penny piece,” he said.

Serco Group chief executive Rupert Soames said: "Serco has a strong track record of providing high quality and efficient rail services around the world, as well as experience in managing large-scale tourism-focused transport services.

"I am delighted that we can use this unique blend of expertise to transform the iconic Caledonian Sleeper into a modern, high quality hospitality service to make Scotland proud."

Robert Samson, passenger manager for the independent watchdog Passenger Focus said the franchise would herald a "new era" for travellers. "The investment in the carriages and berths, improved website, more flexible fares as well as superior hospitality should result in a much improved service from 2018," he said. 

What is Serco?

Formed in 1929 as the UK cinemas arm of the Radio Corporation of America, Serco operates a vast number of public service contracts across the world, covering everything from prisons to pathology laboratories, and nuclear facilities to Boris bikes.

Last year the Serious Fraud Office launched a criminal investigation into the company and fellow outsourcing giant G4S over claims that the taxpayer had been overcharged tens of millions of pounds for administering an electronic tagging scheme for UK offenders.

It is also facing an investigation by MPs over reports that it failed to investigate allegations of sexual assault against an inmate by a member of staff at its Yarl’s Wood immigration centre.

Serco, which reported a 62 per cent fall in annual profits last year, is also in the frame to run privatised children’s services on behalf of councils. The suggestion has alarmed critics who say it would result in it being given the power to remove children from families.

The company is already a leading contractor for welfare to work, as well as running hospitals, leisure centres, school inspection services, refuse collection and CCTV cameras. With more than 100,000 employees operating in 30 countries, Serco began its extraordinary diversification after taking over maintenance the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System at Fylingdales, North Yorkshire.

It also manages the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment. Serco is the largest non-Government supplier of air traffic control services in the world and runs Australian military bases as well the Dubai Metro and the Docklands Light Railway.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
News
people
Travel
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS2 Teacher with SEN responsibilities

£115 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: KS2 teacher with SEN responsibi...

Administrative Assistant

£60 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Administrative Assitant Hertford...

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

** Secondary History Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments