Caledonian Sleeper has some work to do to but could become Scotland's own Orient Express (without the murder) – Susan Morrison

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Caledonian Sleeper may be the jewel in Scotland’s transport crown, but right now it feels like it’s being sold to us by Gerald Ratner

And how did I celebrate the landmark birthday of 64? Well, I took the Caledonian Sleeper to London, thanks for asking. I was terribly excited. Well, I'm officially an old lady, on an overnight train, there was bound to be a murder, which I would be called upon to solve. Yes, I have watched Murder on the Orient Express far too often.

Such a disappointment for an old girl. The sleeper has been described as a ‘jewel’ in Scotland’s transport system. It is, but only if that gem was sold by Gerald Ratner. It should be luxury travel, and it nearly is, but tiny missing details derail that ambition.

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The ‘Guest Ambassadors’ are very efficient at booking travellers in, but clearly very busy. That’s probably why they don’t have time to tell you very much. A little printed guide would be handy to tell you useful things. Take the breakfast menu. Coffee and tea come with the tickets, but additional goodies such as bacon rolls and croissants can be ordered off a menu.

You have to pay for these before the train leaves, and you do that by walking to the Club Car. Given the length of the Caledonian Sleeper, this is somewhere just outside Dunbar. This can be inconvenient if you have already got into your jammies, like the people in the cabin next door.

Seems to me some website wizardry could let you order and pay for those brekkie extras when you book your ticket online. Or some young person could bang together an app, so you could use your phone.

That Club Car is described as the ‘beating heart’ of the train. Since it's a Scottish heart, it needs a defib to hand. It's pretty horrible. The last time I travelled, pre-refurbishment, the colour scheme was fairly pleasant. I’d call it heather-based, with shiny leather-like sofas. Admittedly they looked like they’d come from a swingers club, but they were comfortable. Now it looks like the cafeteria of a Swedish prison, all blonde wood and disturbingly sharp edges.

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The staff were lovely, but in quite the flapdoodle around an iPad, which was essential for the ordering and paying process. This required all of them to look at the naughty bit of kit for lengthy periods of time, whilst their customers waited. Well, they literally had nowhere else to go. I ordered a glass of wine at 23.35, and finally took a sup 00.15. I’d recommend taking your own wee drammie if you want a nightcap.

Hercule Poirot admires the scenery on board a 1920s Venice Orient-Express carriage (Picture: Michael Stephens/PA)Hercule Poirot admires the scenery on board a 1920s Venice Orient-Express carriage (Picture: Michael Stephens/PA)
Hercule Poirot admires the scenery on board a 1920s Venice Orient-Express carriage (Picture: Michael Stephens/PA)

I did sleep well, though. I woke at 6.50 in London. No coffee, sadly. At 7.15, a grumpy announcement told us we all had to get off the train at 7.30. Not entirely sure why. The train sits in Euston for a good few hours. Even budget hotels let you sleep till 9am.

Despite all this, it’s pretty convenient for getting to the Big Smoke if you’ve an early start. It’s actually cost-efficient if you add the cost of an airfare to a London hotel room.

The Caledonian Sleeper belongs to us right now, so let's make it that glittering gem in Scotland’s transport crown. Just a tiny tweak here and there to burnish up the luxury and we’re looking at the Orient Express. Without the murder.

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