Sleeper Ticketing Problems
Friends of the West Highland Lines would like to clarify current ticketing arrangements for the seated section of the Fort William-London Euston Caledonian Sleeper. On 1 April this year, Serco took over operation of the train from ScotRail and have since launched their new brand complete with a new website. While ScotRail still sells tickets for all trains running across the country - including those by other operators - unfortunately the sleeper is no longer listed on the journey planner on ScotRail's website.
To any prospective passenger, this gives the impression that the sleeper does not even exist, at least as a seated passenger service between Edinburgh and Fort William. However, we would like to make it clear that it very much does exist! As previously under ScotRail, passengers can continue to use it as an ordinary day service anywhere along the West Highland section. Ordinary valid tickets, whether purchased from a ScotRail ticket office or their website, will still be accepted and the on-train guard can also sell tickets to those boarding at stations without ticket issuing facilities. While reservations are encouraged, those without are still accepted space permitting.
Highland Railcards (which allow 50% off rail travel for those living in selected postcodes along the West Highland Lines) are also still valid on the sleeper's seated coach. Those journeying overnight to and from England - either as a sleeper or seated coach passenger - can make bookings on the Serco Caledonian Sleeper website (www.sleeper.scot).
As visitors to our 2015 AGM will be aware, the FWHL committee is extremely concerned at the lack of information about ticketing for the sleeper, or more specifically the misinformation coming from the ScotRail website. The train makes up a quarter of the Glasgow-Fort William line's daily services in either direction and is very well-used by locals, hillwalkers and tourists alike. As it does not even appear on ScotRail's journey planner, this causes unnecessary confusion for the public and could be very damaging for patronage on the railway in the future, especially bearing in mind that the Fort William sleeper has been threatened with withdrawal more than once in the past.
The FWHL believe that resolving this ticketing problem is a matter of great urgency and as a result the committee has contacted Abellio ScotRail to raise our concerns. In the meantime any passengers wishing to make reservations on the train between Edinburgh Waverley and Fort William can do so at either of these two stations' ticket offices or online courtesy of Great Western Railways (GWR), who are one of the few train operating companies currently making this available (www.gwr.com).
(Note the Caledonian Sleeper is also still listed in ScotRail's public timetable.)
West Highland Line Money-Saving Fare Tips
This section highlights some ways you can save money on your West Highland Line rail ticket. While the information is reviewed and updated frequently, the society accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of information. For fares and booking info, please visit www.scotrail.co.uk and www.sleeper.scot. Detailed fares information may be found at www.brfares.com and http://data.atoc.org/fares-data.
For many journeys on the West Highland Lines it is possible to save money by purchasing a combination of tickets which together cover the entire journey. If travelling with a combination of non-season tickets, the National Conditions of Carriage (http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/46427.aspx) require you to ensure that the train stops at the station where one ticket ends and the next ticket begins, although you are not required to leave the train.
Off-Peak and Anytime Return Fares
If travelling with an Off-Peak or Anytime fare between a West Highland Lines station and another station in a different part of Scotland, check whether it is cheaper to buy separate tickets for the West Highland and Non-West Highland sections.
For example, an Off-Peak Return direct from Oban to Aberdeen costs £113.30 Off-Peak / £137.50. However, an Off-Peak Return from Oban to Glasgow is £37.80 Off-Peak / £40.00 Anytime, and from Glasgow to Aberdeen is £58.00 Off-Peak / £68.80 Anytime . Therefore, buying two separate tickets saves £17.50 Off-Peak or £28.70 Anytime. *
If you are making a complete round-trip journey in a single day, it is often cheaper to use one or more Day-Return tickets. These are available from many West Highland stations to Glasgow but not for journeys via Glasgow to other parts of Scotland. It is therefore often cheaper to buy one ticket for the West Highland Line section of the journey and one for the journey between Glasgow and the non-West Highland station.
For example, an Anytime return from Fort William to Edinburgh costs £85.20 (and no Day Return fare is available). An Off-Peak Day return (valid at ANY time) from Fort William to Glasgow costs £29 and from Glasgow to Edinburgh is £12.60 Off-Peak / £23.10 Anytime. Therefore buying separate tickets saves at least £33.10 (the saving is £43.60 if you return from Edinburgh before 16.43). *
Advance Tickets from Glasgow
Advance tickets restrict you to one specific train but are often much cheaper than more flexible tickets. Unfortunately Advance tickets to/from Glasgow are only available for a handful of West Highland destinations (including Oban, Fort William and Glenfinnan). If travelling from Glasgow to stations between Banavie and Mallaig (except Glenfinnan) it may be worth purchasing an Advance for part of your journey.
For example, a single from Glasgow to Banavie would cost £28.90. It would be much cheaper to purchase an Advance Single from Glasgow to Fort William (if available) for £13.30, plus an Anytime Day Single from Fort William to Banavie (£2.20). *
NOTE: Unfortunately Advance tickets do not allow journeys to be ‘cut short’. In other words, you are not allowed to purchase an Advance ticket from Glasgow to Fort William but leave the train at Spean Bridge.
Advance Tickets from South of Glasgow
In theory, Advance tickets are available between West Highland Line stations and many stations in the rest of the UK (e.g.Advance fares from London to Mallaig via Virgin West Coast start at £24 single *). However, these tickets are restricted by quota (i.e. only a few such tickets are available for each train) and in some cases the quota is zero. It can therefore be nearly impossible to obtain them.
However, Advance tickets to/from Glasgow generally have much larger quotas and are therefore considerably easier to obtain. For example, London-Glasgow (Advance) plus Glasgow-Fort William (Advance) will tend to be much more available.
The Highland Railcard is only available for tickets wholly on the West Highland Lines. can save even greater amounts by splitting tickets because the railcard is valid on the West Highland Lines ticket but is not valid on through tickets to non-West Highland Lines stations.
* All fares correct at the time of writing