Sleeper trains face axe as subsidy is cut

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The Independent Online
Several sleeper train services look certain to be scrapped after Roger Salmon, BR's franchising director, announced they would no longer be subsidised.

Mr Salmon said he would safeguard sleeper services from London to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness by continuing to subsidise them, but he felt the trains from London to Carlisle and Fort William were "disproportionately uneconomic". He said the high cost per passenger "leads me to conclude that the subsidy for these services is better used supporting other services, in particular, rural services in Scotland".

Mr Salmon also indicated that the sleeper service between Plymouth and Edinburgh and Glasgow would no longer be subsidised "for the same reason".

The Fort William sleeper service is one of Europe's finest railway journeys. Passengers leave London in darkness and wake up amid lochs and mountains. The journey is popular with tourists, and Scottish councils have pledged to fight any attempt to downgrade or scrap it.

But without subsidy from British Rail, it is difficult to envisage the councils having sufficient resources to enable the threatened services to continue operating.

BR managers say that losses of £1m suffered during the recent signalworkers' strike, coupled with new track-access and rolling-stock leasing costs, have forced them to reconsider the future of the loss-making sleeper services.

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