Bargain berths get even more elusive

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).

Basically, the chat revealed that they've changed the system, they're no longer released at 9am on Fridays, and the adviser really didn't know much about why it happened.

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.

65 thoughts on “Bargain berths get even more elusive

  1. I just tried to book a berth on the website as there is a 30% sale but am travelling with my son who is a child. You can’t book for children on the website so can’t get the 30% discount. You also can’t book for a child on their own on the phone which stops me booking for me and my partner on the website to get the discount and the child separately. I think Scotrail is just trying to prevent people from getting the cheap tickets. Will give up – another lost customer.

  2. I wrote to you a few weeks back reminiscing about the dear old pre-digital days when you could phone Scotrail and book a bargain berth right there and then, if there was one. Now it is a nightmare – all the more annoying for the nagging thought that one might exist, somewhere, if only you waste 3 hours online every day looking for it. I have just complained directly to Scotrail’s customer services, by email, and by phone (be prepared to wait for hours, and call the terrestrial landline number you can find on “Saynoto0870”: 01752675670.

    Good luck, and keep up the pressure on those Scotrail Managers!
    Martin Turner

  3. Glad it’s not only me who’s finding locating the bargain berths a nightmare!

    As with others, it used to be so simple – if you had a specific date you could use the ordinary booking system, if you had a rough idea but were keener on price, then you could use the Bargain berth.
    (Interestingly, most [granted, not all] airlines show you the min price for the days around your trip if you have flexibility.)

  4. I was so fed up with NEVER being able to find a Bargain Berth since the web site changes I lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)on the basis that they advertise the super low prices but I am unable to EVER find them. After some weeks I have had a response from the ASA in my favour – quote;

    “They (Scotrail) have agreed to remove the price claims to which you objected, and further will not advertise “from” prices unless they are sure they hold sufficient levels of availability at the lower price so as not to mislead consumers. We understand that they intend to create a new section of the website from which it will be possible to search only for Bargain Berths, but that they will not promote specific discounts on the fares.”

    I will reserve judgement till I see the new Bargain Berths section on the web site!!



  5. Their reply says that because Scotrail have agreed the changes the complaint did not get referred to the ASA council and therefore full details will not be published on the ASA site. They will however publish basic details on Wednesday 24th July

  6. I have now sent three emails to scotrail customer services and received ridiculously unhelpful replies every time. They have not made the slightest attempt to address the points I raise
    concerning the waste of time invilved in (always failing) to find bargain berths. I am thinking of forwarding these complaints to the ASA, as Scotrail is supposed to deal with the specific issues in a complaint, not just patch together a series of irrelevant generic all purpose answers. Let’s ALL OF US COMPLAIN about this MONSTROUS WINDUP. RELENTLESS PRESSURE REQUIRED! There simply must be a straightforward way for people like me who are FLEXIBLE on dates, but not on PRICE, to find bargain berths (if any EXIST) in under ONE MINUTE. The pedants and jobsworths who work for scotrail should be ordered to totally redesign their website to make it QUICK AND SIMPLE.

    Good luck,

  7. Scotrail have changed the wording of “from” on the website but have not yet made good their “intention” to (re)create a separate Bargain Berths section on the website.

    The ASA are satisfied with just the wording change and do not feel they NEED to create the website and are trying to close the case. I am arguing with them on that at the moment. The ASA seem to be hung up on the fact that Bargain Berths are a limited offer. My response is that is not the issue, it is a given that they are limited. The basis of my complaint is they are advertising tickets that are effectively impossible to find and purchase since they closed the Bargain Berths website and integrated it into the awful “Mixing Deck”.

    I will update when I have any further news but what might be helpful is if other people register a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority as well and I would urge you to do so, its very quick and easy from their website.


  8. Thanks for the update Lou.

    The complaint form on the ASA website is here, and the informal resolution that Lou says ASA are satisfied with can be found here – it’s worth referring to it when you complain.

    I probably need to do another blog post about this, to bring things to the fore again somewhat!

  9. So glad I found this site. I thought I was the only one drived to distraction by the new system and that I was just “thick”. Have registered a complaint with Scotrail to hopefully swell the ranks and prompt a re-think …… ah well can always hope!

Comments are closed.