‘Catch The Night Train To…Anywhere’

Being able to do things twenty four hours a day is getting easier. Five of TfL’s Tube lines now run all night and most of us live within easy reach of a supermarket that’s open 24×7. Night birds looking for entertainment will also know of bars, cafes and clubs that will cater to their insomniac tendencies.

Now it looks as if the train companies might be considering running all night train services too. Good news for those looking to get home at some unearthly hours but less so for those that live near a train track.

According to a recent report in the Independent newspaper, Mark Carne, the chief executive of Network Rail was reported as saying “Over time what do people want from a railway? They want something that is more relevant to their lifestyle and today people’s lifestyles are 24-hour…“I am anticipating that my customers – the train operating companies – will come to me in the not-too-distant future and tell me they want to run 24-hour trains.”

Several overnight sleeper services – although much diminished from their heyday – still run, the three most famous being the Night Riviera between London Paddington and Penzance, the Highland Sleeper connecting London Euston with Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William, and the Lowland Sleeper linking Euston with Edinburgh and Glasgow. Plus all-night trains have run on the main line from London to Gatwick Airport to Brighton since the 1970s.

But the train operating companies (TOCs) are envisaging providing services that are more frequent and cover less distances. For instance, Virgin Trains recently added an 11pm departure from London Euston to Manchester.

However, rather than the journey time taking just the two hours achieved by earlier trains, one departure took over three-and-a-half hours due to delays and diversions due to engineering work!

And that could be a problem for the TOCs as the night time is when Network Rail carries out many of its track repairs and other essential maintenance. (plus giving all the animals and birds who live near the tracks a chance of getting a decent night’s sleep).

For the TOCs struggling to provide a service that meets their customers’ changing demands these are problems that they need to overcome. Competitors, in the form of the bus companies such as Megabus and National Express, currently run many overnight links at low fares, such as the midnight Megabus service from Glasgow to Birmingham, which takes almost eight hours but at a typical last-minute fare of £18.

For those fortunate enough to be be able to sleep anywhere, these long journeys could be a boon – and save on a night’s accommodation if you’re a backpacker.

Theatre managers and event organisers might also welcome the news. They’re the ones faced with sections of the audience having to leave before the end so as to avoid ‘missing the last train home’. From now on these people will be able to sit back and watch the encore.

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