2+5 HST for 2021 Staycation Express

Rail Charters Services HST livery visual

Racing green livery: an early visual of the scheme to be applied to the Rail Charter Services HST.

Rail Charter Services’ popular tourist service over the Settle and Carlisle line will return this summer, but with a change in rolling stock to a 2+5 HST set and a different service pattern including a trip to Carlisle.

The service, which operated for the first time in summer 2020, was intended to provide a day out over one of the UK’s most scenic routes through a difficult year, when many people were forced to forego their annual holidays; because of this the service rapidly became known as ‘The Staycation Express’. ‘This is a visitor attraction and not a railtour, so we are going to be less ambitious with the number of trains we run, which will also keep the costs of the operation under control, and run them at times when people really want to travel’ RCS Director Adrian Quine explained to Modern Railways.

Building on lessons from the first year of operation, a dedicated 2+5 HST belonging to Locomotive Services Ltd is being prepared for the project. As in 2020 all accommodation will be First Class, using ex-Great Western Railway Mk 3s with the highly quality interior retained but with new branding applied.

Refurbishment of the vehicles is being carried out by Arlington Fleet Services at Eastleigh and the final step will be the application of a new livery designed specifically for the Staycation Express train. Designs are still being finalised, but the main bodysides will feature a metallic shaded ‘British Racing Green’, which is slightly lighter than the GWR green previously applied to the coaches, with metallic silver bands on the lower body running down to the skirts.

Two dedicated former East Midlands Railway power cars will receive the same livery, but it is understood no decision has yet been made on the livery for the fifth LSL Class 43, which will act as a standby for both the RCS HST and the Blue Pullman set.

The revised schedule, operating on Saturdays to Thursdays (with train servicing undertaken on Fridays), will comprise a morning departure from Appleby at around 09.30, returning from Skipton at around 11.15 and running through to Carlisle. The southbound trip will depart from Carlisle at around 15.00, returning north from Skipton to Appleby at around 17.00. Exact timings are still being agreed with Network Rail.

Fares will be broadly the same as those for 2020, with a small addition to cover the section between Appleby and Carlisle. Three levels of fare will be available once again, with ‘dynamic pricing’ employed to ensure lower fares are available on less busy trains, and savings will be available for passengers prepared to book early for their journeys. RCS is also working with Northern with the aim of creating special add-on fares allowing travel to and from the Staycation Express.

Operating dates are expected to be similar to 2020, with services likely to start in week commencing 19 July and running through to around 11 or 12 September.

More details about Rail Charter Services’ plans for the 2021 operation will be revealed in the April 2021 issue of Modern Railways.