Night Riviera

British Rail Mark 3 Penzance railway station Great Western Railway (train operating company)
Infinite Construction - STEAM

Night Riviera
57603 Night Riviera Sleeper at London Paddington to Penzance 1C99 (26721388160).jpg
Service typeOvernight passenger train
First service11 July 1983
Current operator(s)Great Western Railway
Former operator(s)InterCity (British Rail)
StartLondon Paddington
Distance travelled305 miles
Average journey time7 hours 30 minutes
Service frequency6 x weekly
Train number(s)1C50 (westbound)
1A50 (eastbound)
Line(s) usedGreat Western
Reading to Taunton
Taunton to Exeter
Exeter to Plymouth
Rolling stock4 Class 57 locomotives
10 Mark 3 Sleeping carriages
8 Mark 3 Seating carriages
Route map
Night Riviera Train Map.svg

The Night Riviera is a sleeper train operated by Great Western Railway (GWR). It is one of only three sleeper services on the railway in the United Kingdom (the others being the two Caledonian Sleeper services between London and Scotland). The Night Riviera 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.[1]

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;[2] by 1947, they had been brought forward to 21:50 and 23:50.[3] Under British Rail sleeping cars were limited to just the Penzance service[4] although sleeping cars were detached at Plymouth from the Penzance service until 2006.

On 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.[5]

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.[6][7]

Night Riviera

Great Western Trains livery, which continued to be used by First Great Western until 2008

On 11 July 1983 the Penzance sleeper was relaunched as the Night Riviera, designed to complement the long-established daytime Cornish Riviera.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[9] The train by now was again leaving London at midnight, shown in the timetables as 23:59.[11]

On 23 November 1983, the Night Riviera derailed on approach to London Paddington with locomotive 50041 sliding for 100 metres on its side. There were no casualties.[12]

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.[13][14][15][16] In December 1998 Great Western Trains was rebranded First Great Western.[17]

When the Greater Western franchise was up for reletting in 2005, consideration was given to withdrawing the service.[18] The service was retained, but from December 2006 the carriage detached at Plymouth was withdrawn as it typically only carried four passengers.[19]

The stop at Bristol Temple Meads was also withdrawn, introducing the flexibility to divert the service during overnight engineering works.[20] The Class 47s were replaced in 2004 by four Class 57s.[21][22][23]

In 2006 former Virgin West Coast Mark 3 carriages replaced the Mark 2 carriages.[24] They were refurbished by Railcare, Wolverton in 2008 when they were fitted with reclining seats in the first class and repainted in First Great Western's then blue livery.[25][26][27][28]

In June 2012, with the Greater Western franchise scheduled for renewal the following year, the Secretary of State for Transport confirmed the service would continue to be subsidised.[29]

During the course of 2017/8 the entire train was refurbished. This included new standard class 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 berth and toilet added.[30]

Current operations


Night Riviera route map
London Paddington Underground no-text.svg
pick up only westbound, set down only eastbound
no service on Sundays
Exeter St Davids
Newton Abbot
eastbound only
Bodmin Parkway
westbound only
westbound only on Sundays
St Austell
westbound only
St Erth

The westbound service operates with headcode 1C50, the return 1A50.

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:

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.

After Taunton it continues to Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot and Plymouth, crossing into Cornwall and calling at Liskeard then most stations down the Cornish Main Line to Penzance.

The service from Penzance to London is similar but also calls at Totnes (and omits Lostwithiel and Hayle which are served by the train from London to Penzance) and sets down only at Reading.[31]

Sleeper berth passengers have the use of the First Class Lounge waiting facilities at Paddington that are usually reserved for First Class passengers only.[32] There are sleeper lounges for passengers at Truro and Penzance.

Rolling stock

The accessible berth introduced in 2018

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 on board at Paddington in the morning after arrival until 06:45. The train usually arrives and departs from Platform 1 at Paddington.

It usually consists of seven air-conditioned Mark 3[25] 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).[32] 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 operated a daytime service from St Erth to Exeter St Davids and back to Penzance.[33][34] A Night Riviera set operated a service to Oxford in February 2010.[35]

After the closure of Old Oak Common TMD in December 2017, Penzance TMD became the home depot for maintenance of the rolling stock. At the London end, the stock is serviced at Reading TMD. A second Class 57 is attached to the rear of the London-bound train at Reading which then hauls the empty stock back to the depot, the reverse being done with the train from London.[36]

Class Image Type Top speed Number
mph km/h
Class 57/6 St Philip's Marsh - GWR 57603.JPG Diesel locomotive 95 152 4
Mark 3 Exeter St Davids - GWR Mk3 BFO 17173.JPG Passenger coach 110 177 18



  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. ^ "West-bound Train in midnight crash. Hundreds of Holiday Makers escape injury". Gloucester Citizen. England. 22 December 1945. Retrieved 23 May 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  6. ^ Sleeping car blaze The Railway Magazine issue 929 September 1978 page 459
  7. ^ Vaughan, Adrian (2003) [2000]. Tracks to Disaster. Hersham: Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-2985-7.
  8. ^ "30 years of the Night Riviera" Rail issue 728 7 August 2013 page 21
  9. ^ a b "Night Riviera cuts sleeper travel costs". Modern Railways. Ian Allan Publishing (420): 454. 1983. ISSN 0026-8356.
  10. ^ Abbott, James (1983). "Controlled emission toilets". Modern Railways. Ian Allan Publishing (421): 554. ISSN 0026-8356.
  11. ^ British Rail Passenger Timetable. London: British Railways. 29 September 1986.
  12. ^ Rude awakening Rail Enthusiast January 1984 page 6
  13. ^ "Rail Chronology : Sheepcote Lane Curve, London : its passenger services". Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  14. ^ "Confirmation of GW sleepers to Waterloo" The Railway Magazine issue 1129 May 1995 page 7
  15. ^ "Great Western to axe Eurostar Connection" Rail issue 334 1 July 1998 page 17
  16. ^ "Great Western sleeping car trains return to Paddington" The Railway Magazine issue 1170 October 1998 page 15
  17. ^ "It's First Great Western" Rail issue 346 16 December 1998 page 7
  18. ^ "Night Riviera under threat but Scottish sleepers are safe" The Railway Magazine issue 1252 August 2005 page 7
  19. ^ "FGW Ditches Plymouth '08 Turn" Rail Express issue 121 June 2006 page 32
  20. ^ Perren, Brian. "First Group's ten-year plans for the Western". Modern Railways. Ian Allan Publishing (697): 61–66. ISSN 0026-8356.
  21. ^ "First Great Western confirms order for at least three ETH Class 57/6s" Railway Express issue 84 May 2003 page 5
  22. ^ "FGW to hire three 57s for Thunderbird duties" The Railway Magazine issue 1227 July 2003 page 71
  23. ^ "57602 is first of four Class 57s to be delivered to FGW from Brush" Rail issue 475 26 November 2003 page 69
  24. ^ "Mk3s enter traffic on Cornish sleeper" Rail issue 539 10 May 2006 page 11
  25. ^ a b Marsden, Colin (2008). "Night Riviera refurbished". Modern Railways. Ian Allan Publishing. 65 (719): 70. ISSN 0026-8356.
  26. ^ Campaigners applaud FGW sleeper relaunch Rail issue 595 2 July 2008 page 16
  27. ^ "FGW replaces Mark 2s with Mark 3s on Sleeper" Today's Railways UK issue 55 July 2006 page 61
  28. ^ "FGW sleeper gets Mk 3s for Mk 2s" The Railway Magazine issue 1263 July 2006 page 69
  29. ^ "Sleeper train from Penzance to capital is saved". Western Morning News. 9 June 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2012.[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ "New Night Riviera Sleeper Trains | Great Western Railway".
  31. ^ "Night Riviera Sleeper". Great Western Railway. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  32. ^ a b "Night Riviera Sleeper Service". First Great Western. Archived from the original on 29 August 2009. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  33. ^ New loco-hauled turn on FGW Today's Railways UK issue 151 July 2014 page 64
  34. ^ 57605 hauls last GWR summer loco-hauled Today's Railways UK issue 203 November 2018 page 66
  35. ^ "FGW sleeper stock works to Oxford" The Railway Magazine issue 1308 April 2010 page 74
  36. ^ "Night Riviera servicing moves to Reading" Railways Illustrated issue 179 January 2018 page 12