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. Well now that I’m in London with a very large and comfy sofa-bed you and the Mrs are more than welcome to crash at mine if you need to overnight if you can’t get those Bargain Berth’s anymore 🙂

  2. Hello Jane, Kate, Roisin and Libby. I totally understand your frustrations. However, I suggest you contact Scotrail direct too, to let them know your thoughts and ask for an easier mechanism to find the bargain berths in isolation. Perhaps consumer power will turn this around! Contact details here..

  3. Urrghh – we are planning a trip to the UK from Australia mid-year and I discovered the Bargain Berths during one of my web searches….I doubt I would have EVER found them with this new system! I thought I was losing my mind as it was so easy to find last time…..thank you for your post which restored sanity….

  4. Agree with above comments, good to have found this site. I am planing a sleeper trip and went to check the Scotrail site, squinted at it, and realised it wasn’t me, the Bargain Berths link really had gone. Then delved deeper to find a supposed link to booking the BBs (not even a link any more in the front page narrative on BBs – they really don’t want us to find them!) and was deflated to find it linked to the hideous and unhelpful ‘mixing deck’, as do all the sleeper booking links now.

    I echo Simon’s advice: contact Scotrail directly to air your views on this change, as I have. I fear that the mixing deck system might drive people on to the phone lines which will become overburdened.

  5. pfft, good luck, I contacted them directly and the dude just said, monotonously, ‘you’ll have to use the mixing desk’ ‘but-‘ ‘you’ll have to use the mixing desk’ ‘how?-‘ ‘you’ll have to use the mixing desk, MADAM.’ So, to surmise, Scotrail couldn’t give a shit.

  6. For what it’s worth, I got this this email response:


    Thank you for your email. I am sorry you have had cause to complain. We have made these changes to improve the booking process but your feedback on the new system is appreciated.

    We constantly review the service we provide and your comments will form part of our review of the website as we are keen to ensure we can make it as user friendly as possible. However, if you do experience any problems when making a booking, help is available via the web chat link on the booking screen. We also have a dedicated web support team that is available via 0844 556 5605 or by email at

    I can advise that the former availability chart for Bargain Berth tickets is no longer used. Bargain Berth tickets are now selected as a fares type when booking through the Mixing Deck. The Bargain Berth fares type will not be displayed if there is no availability on the specified service.

    Thank you again for contacting us and also for bringing your experience to our attention. Should you need to reply to this email, please respond to

    Yours sincerely
    Customer Relations Advisor


    As Jen says, perhaps they could indeed not give a shit. But I still think there’s no harm in at least making our views known to them in writing. Okay, probably it won’t change anything, if they have decided to go with the new system they’ll stick to that regardless. It would be worth asking if customer feedback led in any way to these changes; I seriously doubt it.

  7. Thanks, Other Simon, for posting the response – that’s helpful to know. And yes, it’s well worth sending them a message. Customer feedback does work when lots of people call for something together.

  8. ~MMMMmmm. Very annoying. Having had a good look around the best I could get was a fairly decent fare from Gatwick to Inverness via London Kings cross and Aberdeen for £50.00 which isn’t bad but took around 10hours and wasn’t overnight.

    So….. I am destroying the environment and flying with easyjet for £38.00.

    Scotrail, you have lost another two customers.

  9. Well I just discovered this bad news for me and the environment, but good news for Easyjet. Do you know if these fares can therefore now be accessed if I pop down the friendly local ticket office at the station and cause a queue there? How very annoying

  10. Jules, the sleeper front page says the BBs are ‘available online…’ which suggests that’s still the only means of getting them.

    Again, email customer relations. Clearly there are a number of us irritated by this development, even if they are sticking to their guns they should still know people aren’t happy about it.

  11. Hi Simon, I just found your site having had exactly the same problem with the crazy new Scotrail booking system… They have given me an email address at Scotrail for feedback. And this is my chat with the customer services rep, which sums up my views of this new system…

    Lee: Good afternoon, how can I help you?

    Stephen: Hi. I am trying to find the month calendar view that lists all the bargain berths for the caledonian sleeper, but I can’t seem to find it. It used to be very easy to see what dates had the bargain berths for various destinations and I could plan accordingly. Has the page moved?

    Lee: this page is no longer available, now bargain berths can be found on the main booking page after you enter in your travel preferences

    Stephen: Is that the Mixing Deck page? It isn’t at all helpful, and I’ve got a degree in Computer Science so I’m hardly one to normally struggle with the web…

    Stephen: The old page was simple, effective and it worked. I can’t even see how to filter in the mixing deck to only show sleeper services.

    Lee: the page after that, once you confirm.

    Lee: the mixing deck will show all services, the inclusive sleepers are the ones with bed symbols, the ones with the bed and “+” symbols are services where you purchase the sleeper berth separately

    Lee: if the box is grayed out, it is not available, otherwise it is valid for purchase. For bargain berths it is often easier to select “one way” for the journey. You need to also specify the journey time on the table the below
    Lee: bargain berths are very limited, so may not appear on all journeys

    Stephen: I know the bargain berths are limited, which is why the old view showing the whole month was helpful. In three clicks you could review the whole booking period, and make your own mind up. As it is with this new system, it takes longer to work out the price for one day than it did previously to work out the price for any day in the coming three months. This just seems crazy. Did Scotrail really intend for this to happen?

    Lee: the idea behind it is to present customers with all of the options- previously customers felt it was unfair when the chose a particular ticket without being made aware of cheaper or more flexible tickets, hence showing every ticket with the terms and conditions, so customer can make informed choices based on the journey rather then the ticket type

    Stephen: I can understand that, but that is an argument for including the bargain berths in the normal ticketing system, not for removing a way to search for bargain berths over a month long period. Quite simply, I wouldn’t travel on the sleeper at the 150ukp+ price as it is cheaper to drive or fly. But for the bargain berths, I have been a strong advocate of the sleeper.

    Lee: I appreciate everyone has there particular travel preferences. If it is something you would like to discuss further, you can contact our customer relations team on 0845 601 5929

    Stephen: Are the only accessible on the 0845 number you have given?

    Lee: you can reach them via email on

    Stephen: Thanks. I will do.

  12. Interesting, Stephen. That’s the first time I’ve seen anything like an explanation for the change. I agree with your response, if people wanted to see all fare types that doesn’t mean the isolated ones had to be completely removed!

    I’ve had a couple of email exchanges with Customer Relations and they’ve said the change was made in order to “improve and streamline the booking process”. Like everyone else here, I’ve pointed out they have in fact removed what was a very useful and convenient feature, which is NOT an improvement. I suggested that all booking for sleepers should be a separate function, but which can be linked into from the general booking process. I also made known my opinions of the mixing deck. I don’t yet know of anyone who likes this system. I told Scotrail how disappointed I was to see them using it, having disliked it on other TOC sites. It seems to have been designed by people with little or no understanding of how customers engage with a website as a visual medium.

    If anyone here hasn’t yet contacted Scotrail about it, please do.

  13. Here’s a further twist. This evening it seems if you try to book for two people at once on the “improved” web site – it doesn’t show any bargain berths. However, if you log on simultaneously from two computers you can buy two bargain berths on the same train. Pity both my wife and I will have to sleep with strangers!!

  14. Another tip is to join Scotrail Advance club. you have to have bought a valid sleeper or first class daytime ticket (not sure if BB tickets qualify or not) but once you’re in they send you good sleeper and daytime train deals twice a year. For example, last spring we got two £99 return first class tickets which took 2 adults and our 2 small children to London and back.

  15. Having read all these comments I realise that it is not just my limited computer skills but that there really is a problem. Two years ago I booked £19 and £29 bargain berths with no difficulty so I am very disappointed. I have sent an email to Scotrail to add my voice of complaint,so let’s hope they may have a rethink if enough people do the same.

  16. I managed to book 2 of us in on a bargain berth at £29 each just before 9, using the mixing deck, this morning for a journey in April (phones were v busy, in queue for 10 mins)so it can be done, but I still think they should bring back the previous system. And I’m slightly confused, I always thought the BBs were sold to plug gaps after berths had not sold for a while, but I got these tickets for the new booking period just as it went on sale today.

    Interesting news the other day about planned overhaul of the sleeper.

  17. Here is the response I had to my email:
    “Thank you for your email regarding the recent changes to our website. I am sorry you have had cause to complain. We have made these changes to improve the booking process but your feedback the new system is appreciated. We constantly review the service we provide and your comments will form part of our review of the website as we are keen to ensure we can make it as user friendly as possible . However if you do experience any problems when making a booking help is available via the web chat link on the booking screen.”
    (Contact details then follow)
    Here’s hoping!

  18. Even worse for those of us outside of the UK, currently you can’t buy them at all with no way around it, even over the phone. Something to do with not being able to use the print@home delivery system with the non-UK card, and no way to change the delivery method. Frustrating! Hoping this is a temporary glitch in the system that will be fixed, but not holding out much hope – and will be too late for my April trip methinks.

  19. Thanks Angela! I’m sure lots of emails over time will have an effect.

    Melissa – thanks for your comment. I’m not sure that is the case as I am sure that others have been able to buy from abroad in the past, so maybe you’re right that it is a temporary glitch. Perhaps drop them an email and let them know?

  20. Thanks Simon – I did an online chat and the representative wrote ‘bargain berths are only able to be purchased using a UK card’ which I haven’t seen anywhere else. I also rang up the bargain berths helpline and they tried to book for me but no luck, and they said there wasn’t anything they could do. I wonder if it is a new thing? I’ve sent a comment form to them as well.

  21. I’ve been trying to do the same…book a barbain berth with a US credit card. The web says confirmation is via print@home AND SMS but SMS is not provided as an option. Print@home description says it is for UK and overseas customers but it canNOT be used with an overseas credit card!! Scotrail has been studying the US Customer Service Bible, Chapter 1: How to piss off your customers.

  22. Looks like the non-Uk card thing might be part of the “new and improved” website. Here’s the written response I got from my enquiry:

    “We have worked very hard with our suppliers to create an online booking system which is both customer friendly as well as compatible with existing rail systems.  Unfortunately, at the present time we are unable to offer bookings through our website for overseas customers but this can be done via our agency for selling tickets overseas ( I can advise that the Bargain Berth fare is a promotion only available through the ScotRail website and is not available through BritRail.”

    Sounds pretty definitive – pity they aren’t clearer about it on their website, which I’ve been finding pretty frustrating to use in general.

  23. The Rail Ombudsman has the answer. If the bargain berths are being advertised/used as an advertising device, they must be readily bookable. Don’t bother emailing Scotrail, but copy them in to a formal complaint sent to R/O.

  24. I went on to buy tickets today (Friday) for a trip on May 21. I’m in the U.S. so going on at 9:00 British time to gt tickets was too hard for me, being the middle of the night here and all. By the time I got on the best ticket price I could get for the Fort William-London train was 99.40 GBP. And even then there were only two left at that price. Needed to buy tickets for my group of 5 and had to first buy the two at 99.40 each, then buy the three at 121.10 each.

    I was never given a print at home option, even before putting in my credit card. I was only given the option of picking up at the train station (which I chose) or by post, which is only available to UK addresses.

  25. Thanks for sharing your experiences Deni. It’s certainly a rush for the tickets, especially on the very popular Fort William route. I hope the beauty of the journey makes you decide it really was worth buying them! Have a good trip when it comes.

    As for the print option, it might be good to email ScotRail to let them know your thoughts.

  26. Just chiming in to say I am also in the US and was unable to buy tickets for bargain berths (“no print at home option for overseas customers”, etc. with that being the only option given). I can buy regular advance fares however with pick up at the station. Scotrail got a strongly worded email from me as I wasted days trying to get the bargain berth fares. I was first trying for a Thursday departure to find out, after reading it on another site, they don’t offer bargain berths on Thursdays or Fridays (nothing on the Scotrail website about this). Then I switched my trip around to allow for a Wed departure only to get ALL the way through to the end to find out I can’t buy them with a US card. NOTHING on the site mentions this either. As others have said, very frustrating 🙁

  27. Hi Nancy. How frustrating. It’s rubbish when you waste so much time. I’m glad you’ve emailed Scotrail – I’m sure it will have an effect when many people do contact them.

    However, I’ve never heard about them not being available on Thursdays or Fridays. Hard to get due to weekend popularity, yes, and none available on Saturdays. But they are, to my understanding, Monday to Friday. What’s the link where you found it said there were no Thursday or Friday BBs?

  28. Here is a tip for anyone with a Senior Railcard. I have just booked Advance tickets via the mixing deck that work out at 20p cheaper than the Bargain Berth!This includes having the tickets sent by first class post.Maybe this works for other types of Railcard too. Just something to think about if there are no Bargain Berths available.

  29. Thanks for all the useful info, Simon and contributors. I experienced all the same problems and frustrations as described on this page, so have emailed Scotrail to explain why I now travel from Oxford to Scotland by car (and leave my bike behind).

  30. Many thanks for your useful post post about the loss of this once brilliant service. I no longer live in Scotland, and the bargain berth website service was a fantastic relief for me, offering affordable green travel when I was home sick and needing to get back north. I’m not sure that I can stomach using the new ‘mixingdeck’ facility, but I suppose I will have to persevere.


  31. It seems Scotrail only employs sadistic fiends to manage their bookings. It has got worse and worse, and is now a nightmare.
    In the old days you could pick up the phone and ask “have you got any bargain berths?” The bookings clerk would reply “When would you like to travel?”, to which I would reply: “I don’t care, as long as it’s a bargain berth.” The lady would give me all the options, (if any). Five minutes on the phone – bob’s your uncle! Now: hours and hours of exasperation online and never any tickets! And computers were supposed to make life easier!

  32. Hi Martin. Thanks for that – I had no idea the BBs used to be bookable by phone. I guess demand has made this untenable. It’s still worth complaining by email, as at least the previous separate online booking was an improvement on what they’re now doing.

  33. Hi Simon and followers,
    Has anyone tried going to see their friendly local station manager on a friday morning and asking them to search for you? Or do you always have to book through Scotrail?
    I am determined to book a few days in Fortwilliam using the bargain berths either way!

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