UK: First Great Western relaunched its London - Penzance Night Riviera service with modernised rolling stock on June 23. The 18 Mk III sleeper and seating cars have been refurbished by Wolverton-based Railcare at a cost of £2m, with Michael Rodber acting as design consultant.
FirstGroup said it had worked with staff and regular sleeper customers to plan the refurbishment, which aimed 'to create a more relaxed atmosphere.' Carpets, taps, blinds and coat hangers have been replaced, and new bed linen, towels and toiletry packs provided.
The Mk IIIB coaches which provide seated accommodation on the overnight trains have been refreshed with gentler lighting and reclining seats of the type use in the first class sections of day trains. Vehicle exteriors have been repainted to reflect FirstGroup's corporate branding.
FGW reports that overnight loadings through the spring and into summer are very healthy, with all berths sold on many services. The Department for Transport had sought to withdraw the loss-making sleepers when it let the Greater Western franchise in 2005, but it was reprieved following a campaign by passengers and businesses in the southwest of England. It is thought to require support of around £2m per year from the train operator.
FGW is considering an earlier departure time from Penzance on weekday evenings to enable passengers from Plymouth to join the Night Riviera before midnight. The train had included a Plymouth portion until it was dropped as an economy measure.