Night Riviera

Night Riviera
Night Riviera
Night Riviera branding.jpg
Penzance TMD Night Riviera 57605.jpg
Franchise(s): Part of Great Western franchise
Main route(s): London - Cornwall
Other route(s):
Fleet size: 4 Class 57 locomotives
18 Mark 3 coaches (seated and sleeper)
Stations called at:
Parent company:
First Great Western
Web site:

The Night Riviera is a sleeper train service operated by First Great Western. It is one of only two remaining sleeper services on the railway in Great Britain (the other being the Caledonian Sleeper). It runs two trains per night, six days a week (Sun-Fri) between London Paddington and Penzance, with one train departing in each direction.



The first sleeping car train on the Great Western Railway was introduced at the end of 1877 for a service from London Paddington station to Plymouth. This was provided with a 7 ft 0 14 in (2,140 mm) broad gauge coaches with two dormitories, one with seven gentlemen’s berths and the other with four ladies’ berths. These were replaced in 1881 by new coaches with six individual compartments.[1]

An additional service was soon added from London to Penzance, which eventually became known as the Night Riviera. For example, in 1920 the two trains left London at 22:00 for Penzance, and at midnight for Plymouth;[2] by 1947 they had been brought forward to 21:50 and 23:50.[3] Under British Railways sleeping cars were limited to just the Penzance service.[4]

On 6 July 1978 the up train left Penzance at 21:30 but never reached London. Approaching Taunton early the next morning the emergency brake was activated and it came to a stand short of the station with one of the coaches on fire. This had been caused by dirty linen that had been placed near a heater. This had been a standard and safe practice when the train had been steam heated. This tragedy occurred very shortly after the train had switched to an electrical heating system.[citation needed] Twelve people died and thirteen people were injured.[5] At this time the down train left London at 00:05.[6]

On July 11, 1983 the London – Penzance sleeper service was relaunched with its new 'Night Riviera' name which was designed to complement the long-established daytime Cornish Riviera. New Mark 3 air-conditioned sleeping cars were introduced on this service which incorporated many new safety features that had been lacking in the Mark 1 cars that had caught fire at Taunton a few years before.[7] These were the first on the route to feature controlled emission toilets and so discharge facilities had to be provided at Penzance TMD and Laira TMD in Plymouth where the coaches were serviced, although for the time being the coaches were taken from Paddington to the Willesden TMD for discharging as Old Oak Common was not initially fitted with such equipment.[8] A new pricing scheme was also introduced. Instead of paying a sleeping berth supplement on top of the fare for the journey, all-inclusive fares were introduced that were set at competitive rates. The seating coaches that formed part of the train were mainly Mark 2 coaches.[7] The train by now was again leaving London at midnight, actually shown in the timetables as 23:59.[9]

The recently replaced green-and-white livery

Motive power continued to be provided by a class 47 locomotive. Privatisation saw the service become part of the Great Western Trains franchise and the train received their green livery. Between 29 May, 1995 and 26 September, 1998 the service operated from Waterloo.[10]The business was later sold on to become First Great Western. For a while Motorail coaches were conveyed on certain days, but there proved to be insufficient traffic and so this was withdrawn in 2005[citation needed]. Following the franchise being relet – and retained by First Great Western – the service was revised in December 2006. The coach that used to be detached at Plymouth was withdrawn as it typically only carried four passengers; the train still calls but passengers need to alight straight away rather than stay in their berths until ready to leave. At the same time, the call at Bristol Temple Meads was withdrawn so that the train could use a variety of routes depending on overnight engineering needs.[11] The old locomotives were retired and replaced in 2004 by re-engined class 47s, now known as class 57.[citation needed] The train was refurbished in 2008 and repainted into First Group blue livery and the seated coaches are now modern Mark 3 vehicles fitted with redundant first class seats recovered from Inter City 125 trains.[12]

Current operations


Night Riviera route map
Interchange head
London Paddington Underground no-text.svg
Station on track
Reading Not to/from London
Straight track
Unknown BSicon "eHST"
Station on track
Exeter St Davids
Stop on track
Newton Abbot
Unknown BSicon "eHST"
Station on track
Stop on track
Stop on track
Bodmin Parkway
Unknown BSicon "eHST"
Unknown BSicon "eHST"
Stop on track
St Austell
Stop on track
Stop on track
Stop on track
Unknown BSicon "eHST"
Stop on track
St Erth
End station

† Limited or asymmetric service

The westbound service operates with headcode 1C99; the reverse as 1A40.

Unlike the Caledonian Sleeper, the only other current UK sleeper service, the Night Riviera operates along a single route. From London Paddington, the train stops first at Reading then has a long run without advertised stops to Taunton. This allows it to use a variety of different routes depending on engineering work or other blockages each night:

In exceptional circumstances it can be diverted between Castle Cary and Exeter St Davids via Yeovil Pen Mill, Yeovil Junction and Honiton. This means it cannot call at Taunton and has to reverse at Exeter.

At London Paddington

It then continues to Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot and Plymouth. The train then crosses into Cornwall and calls at Liskeard then most stations down the Cornish Main Line to the terminus at Penzance.

The 2009 timetable serves Totnes, Lostwithiel and Hayle in one direction only with no service stops at Par or Taunton for the eastbound train on Sunday night/Monday morning.[13]

Sleeper passengers have the use of waiting facilities at Paddington that are usually reserved for First Class passengers.[14]

Rolling stock

The service is usually hauled by one of four dedicated Class 57 locomotives. These were rebuilt and re-engined Class 47 locomotives in 2004. They follow the tradition of Great Western Railway 4073 Class steam locomotives that once worked the route by carrying the names of castles in Devon and Cornwall:

All coaches, both sleeping and seated "day" coaches, are air-conditioned standard class Mark 3s.[12] Passengers pay standard fares with a supplementary charge for a sleeping berth (a single berth is more expensive per person than twin bunk berths).[14]


  1. ^ MacDermot, E T (1931). History of the Great Western Railway. 2 (1863-1921) (1 ed.). London: Great Western Railway. 
  2. ^ Time Tables. London: Great Western Railway. 4 October 1920. 
  3. ^ Time Tables. London: Great Western Railway. 6 October 1947. 
  4. ^ Western Region Timetable. London: British Railways. 14 June 1965. 
  5. ^ Vaughan, Adrian (2003) [2000]. Tracks to Disaster. Hersham: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-2985-7. 
  6. ^ Passenger Timetable, Great Britain. London: British Rail. 2 May 1977. 
  7. ^ a b "Night Riviera cuts sleeper travel costs". Modern Railways (Ian Allan Publishing) 40 (420): 454. 1983. ISSN 0026-8356. 
  8. ^ Abbott, James (1983). "Controlled emission toilets". Modern Railways (Ian Allan Publishing) 40 (421): 554. ISSN 0026-8356. 
  9. ^ British Rail Passenger Timetable. London: British Railways. 29 September 1986. 
  10. ^ "RAIL CHRONOLOGY : SHEEPCOTE LANE CURVE, LONDON : its passenger services" (HTML). Retrieved 2011-06-06. 
  11. ^ Perren, Brian. "First Group’s ten-year plans for the Western". Modern Railways (Ian Allan Publishing) 63 (697): 61–66. ISSN 0026-8356. 
  12. ^ a b Marsden, Colin J (2008). "Night Riviera refurbished". Modern Railways (Ian Allan Publishing) 65 (719): 70. ISSN 0026-8356. 
  13. ^ "National Rail Timetable 135 (Summer 2009)" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  14. ^ a b "Night Riviera Sleeper Service". First Great Western. Retrieved 2009-10-16. 

External links

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