|Service type||Overnight passenger train|
|First service||11 July 1983|
|Current operator(s)||Great Western Railway|
|Former operator(s)||InterCity Great Western|
|Average journey time||7 hours 30 minutes|
|Service frequency||6 x weekly|
|Train number(s)||1C99 (westbound)
|Line used||Great Western
Reading to Taunton
Taunton to Exeter
Exeter to Plymouth
|Rolling stock||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. For example, 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.
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 13 were injured. At this time the down train left London at 00:05.
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 time being 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, to introduce 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.
|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 then for many years had a long run without advertised stops to Taunton. This allowed it to use different routes between Reading to 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
- 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.
However, by 2016 a stop at Westbury (westbound only) was advertised, preventing use of some of these alternatives. In exceptional circumstances it can be diverted between Castle Cary and Exeter St Davids via Yeovil Pen Mill, Yeovil Junction and Honiton, not calling at Taunton and reversing at Exeter.
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:
It usually consists of seven air-conditioned Mark 3s carriages but in times of high demand it can be to nine. Passengers pay standard fares with a supplementary charge for a sleeping berth (a single berth is more expensive per person than twin bunk berths). They have not generally been used on any other services, although one did operate a service to Oxford in February 2010. Since 2015, the day coaches form a Night Riviera set has also operated a Summer Saturday service from Par to Exeter St Davids and back to Penzance.
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- Abbott, James (1983). "Controlled emission toilets". Modern Railways (Ian Allan Publishing) (421): 554. ISSN 0026-8356.
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- Rail Magazine (595): 16, 2 July 2008 Missing or empty
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- 1C99 23:45 London Paddington to Penzance Realtime Trains
- 1A40 21:45 Penzance to London Paddington Realtime Trains
- "National Rail Timetable 135 (Summer 2009)" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-11.[dead link]
- "Night Riviera Sleeper Service". First Great Western. Archived from the original on 29 August 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
- "FGW sleeper stock works to Oxford" The Railway Magazine issue 1308 April 2010 page 74
- "New loco-hauled turn on FGW" Today's Railways issue 151 July 2014 page 64