|Service type||Overnight passenger train|
|First service||11 July 1983|
|Current operator(s)||Great Western Railway|
|Former operator(s)||InterCity (British Rail)|
|Average journey time||7 hours 30 minutes|
|Service frequency||6 x weekly|
Reading to Taunton
Taunton to Exeter
Exeter to Plymouth
4 Class 57 locomotives|
10 Mark 3 Sleeping carriages
8 Mark 3 Seating carriages
The Night Riviera is a sleeper train operated by Great Western Railway (GWR). It is one of only two sleeper services on the railway in the United Kingdom (the other being the Caledonian Sleeper). It runs six nights a week (Sunday–Friday) between London Paddington and Penzance with one train in each direction.
The first sleeping car train on the Great Western Railway was introduced at the end of 1877 from London Paddington to Plymouth. This had 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge carriages with two dormitories, one with seven gentlemen’s berths and the other with four ladies’ berths. These were replaced in 1881 by new carriages with six individual compartments.
An additional service was soon added from London to Penzance which eventually became known as the Night Riviera. In 1920, the two trains left London at 22:00 for Penzance and midnight for Plymouth; by 1947, they had been brought forward to 21:50 and 23:50. Under British Railways sleeping cars were limited to just the Penzance service although sleeping cars were detached at Plymouth from the Penzance service until 2006.
On Saturday 22 December 1945 at 00:45, the sleeper service from Paddington collided with the back of the 23.00 hours train from Paddington near Sonning. The engine of the sleeper service was derailed and badly damaged. Four parcel vans on the rear of the 23.00 hours service were badly damaged.
On 5 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 carriages on fire. This had been caused by dirty linen that had been placed near a heater, which had been a standard and safe practice before the recent change from steam to electric heating. Twelve people died and thirteen were injured.
On 11 July 1983 the Penzance sleeper was relaunched as the Night Riviera, designed to complement the long-established daytime Cornish Riviera. New Mark 3 air-conditioned sleeping cars were introduced with many safety features that had been lacking in the Mark 1 carriages that had caught fire at Taunton. These were the first on the route with controlled emission toilets, so discharge facilities were provided at Plymouth Laira and Penzance Long Rock depots where the carriages were serviced, although for a while the carriages were taken from Paddington to Willesden Depot for discharging as Old Oak Common was not initially equipped. 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 carriages that formed part of the train were mainly Mark 2 carriages. The train by now was again leaving London at midnight, shown in the timetables as 23:59.
Privatisation saw the service become part of the Great Western Trains franchise in February 1996 and the rolling stock was repainted into its green and white livery. Between 29 May 1995 and 26 September 1998 the service was diverted to London Waterloo to provide connection with Eurostar services. In December 1998 Great Western Trains was rebranded First Great Western.
When the Greater Western franchise was up for reletting in 2005, consideration was given to withdrawing the service. The service was retained, but from December 2006 the carriage detached at Plymouth was withdrawn as it typically only carried four passengers.
The stop at Bristol Temple Meads was also withdrawn, introducing the flexibility to divert the service during overnight engineering works. The Class 47s were replaced in 2004 by four Class 57s.
In 2006 former Virgin West Coast Mark 3 carriages replaced the Mark 2 carriages. The carriages were refurbished by Railcare, Wolverton in 2008 and repainted in First Great Western's blue livery.
During 2017 the entire fleet underwent refurbishment. This included new seats in the seated coach, and a wheelchair space and toilet. There was a refurbished buffet counter and lounge car. All the sleeper carriages were refurbished, and featured keycard locks, allowing passengers to unlock their own cabins for the first time, new lighting, and a wardrobe, along with underbed storage. There was also a disabled accessible room and toilet added.
|Night Riviera route map|
The Night Riviera operates along a single route, unlike the Caledonian Sleeper. From London Paddington, the train stops first at Reading (to pick up only) then a long run without stops to Taunton. This allows it to use different routes between Reading and Taunton depending on engineering work or other blockades each night:
- the direct line through Westbury
- the Great Western Main Line and South Wales Main Line via Bristol Temple Meads
- the Great Western Main Line to Chippenham then via Trowbridge to rejoin the direct line at Fairwood Junction, Westbury.
- diverging at Heywood Road Junction, Westbury, via Trowbridge and Bristol.
Sleeper berth passengers have the use of the First Class Lounge waiting facilities at Paddington that are usually reserved for First Class passengers only. There are sleeper lounges for passengers at Truro and Penzance.
The train is usually hauled by one of four dedicated Class 57 locomotives. These are rebuilt and re-engined Class 47s delivered in 2004. They follow the tradition of Great Western Railway Castle Class steam locomotives that once worked the route by carrying the names of castles in Devon and Cornwall:
There are two identical rakes of coaches, one operating each way each night. The seated coaches are usually at the Penzance end of the train. Passengers can board the train from 22:40 at Paddington, or remain onboard at Paddington in the morning after arrival till 07:00. The train usually arrives and departs from Platform 1 at Paddington.
It usually consists of seven air-conditioned Mark 3s carriages, but is 8 from Paddington on a Friday night, and from Penzance on a Sunday night. Coaches A and B are seated coaches, C is the Buffet/Lounge Car and the rest are sleeper carriages. There are wheelchair spaces in coaches B and D. The sleeper coaches are generally made up as 6 single compartments, and 6 double in each coach. However this can be altered if demand dictates. Passengers pay standard fares with a supplementary charge for a sleeping berth (a single berth is more expensive per person than twin bunk berths). Or can purchase a berth inclusive fare. They have not often been used on any other services. On summer Saturdays from 2015 until 2018 the seating coaches from a Night Riviera set have also operated a daytime service from St Erth to Exeter St Davids and back to Penzance. A Night Riviera set once operated a service to Oxford in February 2010.
During the course of 2017/8 the entire train has been refurbished. This refurbishment has seen new seats installed in coaches A, B and C, along with a whole new design for coach C. The sleepers have also been fully refurbished and rebranded. A new wheelchair accessible berth and toilet was introduced during 2018 in coach D. 
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Media related to Night Riviera at Wikimedia Commons