|This post has been rather overtaken by events (the full story of which you can read in the comments below). The most up to date situation on the bargain berths can be found on this more recent post.
I’m a big fan of the Caledonian Sleeper, which connects Scottish towns and cities with London via an overnight train service. Not least given the fact that on each day it runs there are a handful of Bargain Berth fares which give you a bed in a compartment for as little as £19 (though not without occasional complications). My guide to getting those elusive fares is one of my website’s most popular posts.
In fact, I am glad to have recently inspired some friends to undertake a planned trip to Paris using the bargain berths and Eurostar combination, a trip that would have been pricier, more hassle, and potentially even more time-consuming by air. It’s always nice to hear when your advice is actually useful to people, and I always mention the opportunities that are opened up by the sleeper option when people talk about travelling to Europe.
However, the way of finding those ultra-cheap fares seems to have changed. I had a comment on that post yesterday alerting me to the fact that there is no longer a specific search function for bargain berths, and instead the link points you to the newly redesigned general ticket search function. That means that you’re hunting for the bargain berths alongside not only the regular sleeper fares but also all the daytime services to London, most of which of course involve changing in Edinburgh or Glasgow.
This seemed very odd, and has not gone unnoticed by other rail geeks.
The online chat function with ScotRail customer services was still open, so I used it to speak to an adviser. Here’s an image capture of what was said (and as you can see it was my second time of trying to connect; and I’ve masked the adviser’s name, just in case there are any issues there).
The bit about fares no longer being released on Friday morning was contradicted this morning at least, when ScotRail tweeted that tickets were now open for the new week’s horizon. So that’s a bit of extra confusion to pour into the mix.
That means that advice seems to be still to check at 9am on a Friday morning twelve weeks before you travel, go through the usual ticket search facilities on the ScotRail website and look for journeys after 8pm, and if there are no bargain berths then at least there’ll be the regular fares for you to consider.
The consequences of removing the direct search function for bargain berths are, however clear: firstly it will be harder to be flexible with dates because you cannot see bargain berths in isolation, and secondly it will take longer to undertake searches because you have to go through the main search function and identify the bargain berths from among all the other numerous fares and journeys that day.
The cheapest regular-priced berth is around £70 which is still not bad, but I worry that making the bargain berths that bit harder to find will put people off and make them consider other options (like flying). That is not good for customers, not good for ScotRail’s PR, and potentially not good for the environment.
Whether they reconsider or not, who knows. The bargain berths do, at least, remain something of an unpredictable mystery.
If you’re using the new system to find bargain berths, have you been successful? Do please post a comment to share your experiences.
|Thanks for reading this, one of my post popular blog posts. If you’re interested, I’ve written loads more about rail travel, including a series of blog posts about a three-week, five-country overland adventure through Europe. I’ve also written a book about my travels across the world in search of places with the word ‘mullet’ their name, Up The Creek Without a Mullet, which you can find on Amazon UK and USA.|