Google + RSS Feed

Will the £1 Megabus sleeper trouble Scotrail’s Caledonian Sleeper train?


October 23, 2011 by Jools Stone

Brian Souter with Megabus sleeper coach

'Today Buchanan Bus Station, tomorrow the world!' Stagecoach Chief Exec Brian Souter

The Good News: It’s finally possible to travel overnight from Glasgow to London for a quid. Yes, that’s right, one whole, shiny new pound!

The Less Good News: It’s on a bus, not a train. Boo!

Sorry my train nerd brethren, but it’s another wallet-pleasing blow against UK  rail travel in the long run. Who else could possibly be behind the initiative than Megabus, the Stagecoach-owned Ryanair of the long distance bus market?

This week they launched the maiden service from Weedgieland to Big Old Smokeytown (as only the true Londoners call it) on a trial basis. It travels non-stop between the two cities, leaving Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station at 11pm arriving at London Victoria around 7am.

OK, so these £1 fares are likely to be as rare as hen’s dentures, but even at the more common price points of £15 (found on a midweek night for late November)  and £12 (found on a Friday night a few days later) one way, it’s still pretty smack-around-the-chops astounding value, especially when you consider what they’re offering.

Compare this to Scotrail’s prices on the Caledonian Sleeper on the same nights:

Wednesday 23 November: £75.80 for a standard single berth, shared with one other

Friday 25 November: £94 for a standard single berth, shared with one other

So what do you get for your pocket change?

You get a curtained off bunk with duvet, bedding, complimentary washpack and reading light, on-board refreshments AND they even toss in an additional free seat, for night owls and those roused from a sweet slumber by the sleeping policemen of the M8.

Or, being a tad more cynical about it, maybe this is just a built-in fallback position to placate customers who might grumble about a sleepless night on board the Saturday Night VengaParty Bus from Hell?

Will it be comfortable? I’ve yet to test it myself, but it’s hard to imagine it will be superior to a berth on a sleeper train, and there’ll be less privacy, plus fewer facilities in general, I’d guess…

But holy Arbroath Smokies Batman, it’s potentially cheaper than a single Oyster Card journey for crying out loud, so who could possibly complain??

Now I am a fan of the Caledonian Sleeper myself but could I really argue that the average price difference of £70-odd is worth the outlay?

So come on Scotrail, let’s see what you’ve got. Might your prices come down a few notches in response? Here’s hoping…

What do you think? Would you sacrifice a bit of comfort for a cheap bunk up on the Megabus? Have you tried out similar night bus services in other parts of the world.

How did they compare with sleeper trains in the same countries?  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – let’s be having them!


  1. Mikeachim says:

    It’s barmy. And I love it. Sleeping on a bus, as in in a *sleeper*? I can’t resist.

    Another reason I can’t resist is that I already love Megabus, and use it regularly to get to & from London from/to York (either £5 or £9 each way). Amazing service, if a bit painful for the bus part (it’s half-by-train) when you’re on the overnight return. But no real complaints.

    For the price, if I was going to Glasgow (and I will be doing soon) I might even consider York to London for £9 then £12 London to Glasgow. If just for the humour value of the whole thing.

    • joolsstone says:

      Ha, there’s a post in that arse-about-face journey plan for sure Mike! Look me up when you arrive, somewhat bedraggled, in the Big Weedge. 🙂

  2. I still think the train sleeper would be more comfortable with its lilting clickity click – and trains don’t go around sharp corners that can potentially throw you out of your bunk 😉
    I wonder whether this is why they offer you a seat too on the bus so as a safety measure you can strap yourself in for the duration?

    Although that price saving is tempting!

    • joolsstone says:

      That’s a good point Linda, could be a practical conern. I’ve never done an overnight bus myself. Def prefer the train too (well, I would eh?) but just hope it has a knock on effect on Scotrail’s pricing.

  3. Megan Eaves says:

    I’ve done plenty of overnight buses, but all of them were in Asia and all of them were my equivalent to unending nights of hell on wheels. I would probably opt for the train at £70 than a 1pound bus, but I’m open to being wrong here…

    • joolsstone says:

      Thanks Megan, it is suspiciosuly cheap isn’t it? I’ve tried sleeping in a regular seat on the Caeldonian Sleeper once and that was enough for me.

  4. I would definitely be open to it! I’ve been on several overnight buses, all in Southeast Asia (where the quality is obviously not as good), and the one time I had been able to sleep was when some Canadian chiropractors handed out melatonin to everyone. Will have to see how comfortable they actually make the berths.

    In other news, I will be using the phrase “rare as hen’s dentures” to everyone back home in the States. LOVE IT.

    • joolsstone says:

      Thanks Kate, sounds like you struck lucky with your medicating travel companions! Use ‘hens dentures’ on friends back home and just tell them everyone says it here. 😉 Someone is bound to search for this term eventually, we live in hope for the long tail!

  5. I’m a huge fan of the mega bus. Yes I know, I’m clearly cheap (or as I like to say frugal chic) but its great value.

    I’ve been totally priced out of the train market, I can no longer afford to hop on a train to London (I can’t even afford to hop on a train between Newport and Cardiff now since the price increases) so the megabus allows me to keep working the London scene (not as bad as that sounds) without declaring bankruptcy.

    I think this is a great idea! Ok so you may have a stranger snoring loudly all night, someone with bad BO or a sleep talker but at £1 (even £15) you can cope!

  6. Andy Jarosz says:

    Wouldn’t do it myself if it was free (which it pretty much is). I’m crap at sleeping on buses and avoid night buses like the plague. Recently in Mexico we had no choice but to take one to cover the 12 hour journey between San Cristobal and Oaxaca. We splashed out on the super-duper luxury first class executive deluxe premier sleeper service: lie-flat beds (lie being the appropriate word as they were far from flat), and sealed off private sleeping area with all curtains drawn and blinds down (even at the front between us and driver) made me feel nauseous as we hurtled around the hair-pins. Didn’t sleep a wink and couldn’t wait to get off.

    • joolsstone says:

      Hmm, that does sound pretty horrendous, but the big question is this: which of the animal combos in my captcha foxed you so, my zoologically-challenged friend? 😉

  7. Kieron says:

    We arrive in London tomorrow and have a week free in the UK – this has got us seriously considering heading up to Glasgow on the Megabus and exploring Scotland from there.

    • joolsstone says:

      HI Kieron, do it! No UK trip is complete with some time north of the border in my book. You may find the daytime Megabuses cheaper than the night bus at short notice, but who knows? Worth a look. And if you come through Edinburgh of course, give me a shout and I’ll show you round. 🙂 A return train between here and Glasgow is around £11 and takes 50 minutes. Cheers, Jools

  8. Tally says:

    Just tried this last night and would go again. Have been on the Caledonian sleeper many times, and this offered the same comfort levels although you don’t get the privacy the cabins afford, but this option was much cheaper (£27 each). The bunks are triple height – behind the driver’s seat there are a couple of rows of seats. Then there are 4 blocks of triple bunks on each side of the bus, followed by the bendy bit of the bus, then a few more rows of seats, then a final block of bunks. I think this makes 24 in the front block of bunks plus 6 at the back making a total of 30, but I’m sure the press releases said 26. The aisle is very narrow between the bunks – if someone is leaning into their bunk e.g. to straighten out their duvet, you either have to really squeeze past them or wait til they’ve finished. The lights are on at start/end of journey, but most of the time they’re off, although with the bunk curtains drawn it does filter out a lot of the light plus give you privacy. I wouldn’t recommend though if you’re claustrophobic! As you board the bus the driver checks your e-ticket, then allocates you a berth (just given out in numerical order as per the queue as you waited in to get on, you can’t specify your bunk) – the number you’re given also corresponds to the seat you’re given, and you go and put any bag too big to fit in the overhead shelf/under the seats under the bus – be warned not always the driest, some of our stuff got wet. There are no seated passengers (they go on a separate bus) – everyone on the sleeper bus has a berth as well as a seat for when they’re not sleeping/lying down. There is a toilet onboard, and there is help-yourself tea/coffee, plus free wi-fi, although we didn’t try this so can’t comment on speed etc. On the bunk is a fitted bottom sheet, a thick cosy duvet, comfy pillow, an airline-type fleece blanket, a tag (not sure if this is for your luggage or to put on the rails around the bunk to identify you while sleeping – or to easily find your way back to your own bunk in the middle of the night!), a travel toothbrush and small toothpaste tube. The bottom bunk has no window, the middle and top bunks have a small curtained window with shelf. There is also an elasticated net pocket, and a dim LED light – too dim to read, but enough so you can find things in your berth during the night. The head room is less than on the train, so you can’t sit up in bed, but as it leaves at midnight, I was ready to try and get some kip immediately. Kept waking up throughout the night as I do on the train, had a wee look out the window, turned over and went back to sleep. Only aware of 1 stop on the journey, I presume half way, must have stopped for no more than 10 mins when the drivers swapped over. The windows have a wee curtain – this needs to be improved and a blackout blind incorporated, as the headlights from oncoming traffic is annoying plus the wee curtain hooks rattle in the track and make a really irritating noise!! Bus arrived half an hour ahead of schedule which meant we could get a quicker onward connection. Would definitely use again in the future, the kids would love the experience and much easier for them (who sleep like dogs!) to do the long journey north/south overnight (and easier for me than trying to keep them entertained on a daytime trip too). Just wonder how they get round the seatbelt legislation – does anyone know?

    • joolsstone says:

      Wow, what a phenomenally detailed review, thanks! So the seated passengers go on a separate bus, so what happens when they want to sleep, do they have to stay in their seats? That’s not exactly clear from Megabus’ publicity.

  9. jim ferguson says:

    isnt it coincidence that the SNPs biggest backer has announced the bus sleeper , just as the government review the train sleeper.

  10. Emma says:


    I used the sleeper bus this weekend to go to Glasgow for the weekend. The beds were pretty comfy although a bit hard as the mattresses are thin. I slept in the top bunk going up and the middle bunk coming back. Both were easy to get into and the top bunk had more headroom (although not enough to sit up). Despite freezing temperatures outside & snow on the way home I was very warm in my bunk. The driver gave us free drinks (tea, coffee, iron bru, water) and biscuits when we boarded and free breakfast (pastry and juice) in the morning. I recommend taking an eye mask and ear plugs as they weren’t provided. Definitely use it again as I got enough sleep and it’s cheap.

    Seated passengers go on a separate double decker coach that leaves 10min before the sleeper service. When I booked my ticket I could choose the sleeper service or the seated service (the little conductor was pictured sleeping or standing up so you can tell the difference).

  11. Paul says:

    Wouldn’t it be safer to travel on the sleeper train than on the sleeper bus?

  12. jon battle says:

    – Megabus sleeper Glazgy London excellent.
    – I-m 6 foot 4 + claustrophobic.
    – It was comfy + good nite’s sleep for 35 GBP.
    – Compare to the “Caledonian Sleeper” scam, which isn’t. For 90 GBP you get a plain ol’ bench – the same that you’d get for any regular train trip.
    – MORAL: *NEVER* take train to/from Scotland.
    – This Megabus sleeper is *BRILL*

  13. Iain Fraser says:

    Never before, and never again will I travel on the Caledonian Sleeper, nor now on any First Scotrail operated train. Travelled on the sleeper from Edinburgh to London Euston last weekend with my wife, having won it as a prize from Scotrail on Twitter. The prize was 2 first class tickets, and looking at prices appear to have a face value of £400 for the 2 of us. We were very excited, but this was soon to change to bitter disappointment and disgust, even before the train had left the platform (incidentally over an hour late with no explanation from onboard staff)
    The staff ruined our experience, I have never met such ignorant, arrogant, poor excuses for customer service staff in all my life.
    In my cabin, there was no amenity kit and a used bar of soap at the sink. Great start.
    Topping it all I was rudely insulted verbally by a member of staff, I cant even type the word in this review.
    Return journey we simply went straight to bed, to avoid them as it was in fact the same crew.
    A disgrace to our nation, and hope First Scotrail are stripped of the franchise when it comes up for renewal shortly. Take my advice, take a daytime train operated by Virgin or fly or indeed the all new megabus gold sleeper|! Atleast then you are guaranteed not to be sworn at by a member of their onboard teams.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow on Bloglovin

My Klout

Holiday Homes

Rail Blogs

Station Masters

Travel Planning Gurus