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Caledonian Sleeper Service

Volume 584: debated on Thursday 10 July 2014

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has not yet used the service in an official capacity, but plans to do so shortly. My noble Friend the Minister of State, Baroness Kramer, used the Caledonian sleeper service on the evening of 31 October on a visit to Scotland. The Caledonian sleeper service is part of the ScotRail franchise, which is the responsibility of the Scottish Government.

By my reckoning, there are at least four Members in their place this morning who are regular users of the sleeper service. When the Minister’s right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has the opportunity to use the sleeper service soon, he will, I am sure, discover that although it is not particularly high speed and he might not necessarily get that much sleep, it is a useful service. Given that the UK Government, along with the Scottish Government, are part-funding significant upgrade of the rolling stock, what is the Department doing to ensure that as much of the supply chain work for the upgrade goes to UK companies?

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the Scottish Government announced in May that the winning bid for the franchise will commence next year. We want to ensure a service that not only he, but all Members, can sleep on. The rolling stock competition will lead to an upgraded rolling stock. The competition will of course be open to British companies, which are currently very successful at winning contracts across the panoply of rolling stock contracts let by this Government.

Mr Speaker, may I make it abundantly clear that those of us with a clear political conscience sleep very well indeed on the sleeper service?

Will the Minister reflect on the fact that 15-plus years ago the then passenger franchise director was seeking to get rid of sleeper services, saying that they had no commercial future? In their wisdom, the Government—I support them on this one, for once—are providing match funding of £50 million at each end, with the Scottish Government, for a massive expansion to secure the future under Serco’s new 15-year franchise. This is a vote of confidence, the like of which has not happened in the lifetime of anyone in this Parliament. Will he welcome that fact and sleep well himself?

I sleep well most nights, but nothing my right hon. Friend says ever fails to surprise me, either about his conscience or other matters. I am delighted to have his support on this matter. He is of course right: the sleeper service offers a unique, valued and high-profile service between Scotland and London. He is also right to say that the Government are committing to these services. The House will have noted the Prime Minister’s remarks in Cornwall last week on the Cornish sleeper service.

May I, on my birthday, reflect that the passage of time and progress are not always the same thing? Nothing will ever equal the excitement of a child at King’s Cross station taking the night sleeper steam train to Inverness and the highlands, and waking up at Aviemore to have kippers in the restaurant car. That is one of the many joys, like all-night sittings, that younger Members will never enjoy.

We are always pleased to be informed of the source of the right hon. Gentleman’s excitements, whether current or historic.

May I wish my right hon. Friend—and my sister—a happy birthday?

I think progress will be appreciated by all younger Members. The rolling stock will ensure that they get a good night’s sleep as they are whisked swiftly to Scotland to enjoy the many benefits of that country, which must of course stay in the Union with the rest of this country.