First Great Western supports the use of heritage traction on the national network, including steam, Indeed we are working closely to facilitate one such operation in May, but the challenges that would need to be overcome to use a steam engine with the sleeper are frankly enormous.
It would require considerable planning, right at a time when our efforts remain fully focused on getting services back to normal after the flooding and looking after our customers.
We will be doing a number of things to celebrate the opening of the Dawlish line and supporting the return of rail services to and from Devon and Cornwall. A steam hauled sleeper is not one of them however.
Even if it was possible to find a safe way to do it, and this is by no means straightforward, most people on the sleeper want to be in bed. It is not therefore the passenger spectacle that a steam service by day provides. We might well look at a steam service in Devon and Cornwall later this year, but this will not involve the sleeper.
The sleeper is all about giving customers a good night’s sleep, rather than providing an exciting outing in the middle of the night. Not that we oppose exciting outings, we have done more than any other TOC to support steam runs on our network.
We appreciate this will be disappointing but this is not something we are going to offer on the sleeper train, especially when we are working to get business back to normal.
Prior to the sea wall collapse we had been seeing significant growth in passenger numbers on the sleeper, . We will continue to focus our energy on encouraging this important group of customers back to the sleeper when it returns in April. With support from Cornwall Council and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, we have also secured under this franchise extra seasonal capacity for leisure and business passengers on our Night Riviera Sleeper. This will mean one additional sleeping car and another seated carriage introduced to the service.