Why Serco made Inverness their next stop

Case study, published 04 December 2015

Caledonian sleeper

After winning the bid to run the Caledonian Sleeper service, Serco turned to Highlands and Islands Enterprise to find out what made Inverness the perfect place to set up.

In May 2014 the Scottish Government named Serco as the successful bidder for the 15-year, £800m Caledonian Sleeper service contract which connects Scotland’s cities with London. As a result, the franchise now operates separately from the Abellio ScotRail offering with the ambition of creating “a tourist rail experience to rival the best in the world”.

Having launched the service on 1 April 2015, Serco is well on its way to delivering this vision. Not only has the Caledonian Sleeper brand received a fresh, exciting makeover, the service now provides an authentic Highland menu and luxury Scottish sleep packs, all presented by polished guest ambassadors in quality Harris Tweed uniforms.

Scotland is a strategically important location for Serco. As well as operating the Caledonian Sleeper franchise, the organisation delivers the Northlink Ferries service which provides lifeline ferry links between the mainland and Orkney and Shetland.

Why Inverness?

For Serco, Inverness was the natural choice of HQ for the Caledonian Sleeper service. It is not only the start and end point for many of its guests, it is also home to what Serco believes to be a high calibre workforce which enjoys an excellent work life balance.

Ryan Flaherty, Guest Experience Director at Caledonian Sleeper, agrees:

“We have been really impressed by the quality of staff we have been able to recruit to support our base in Inverness. We have access to a skilled and experienced workforce covering all areas of operation, from finance and administration to customer services and marketing.

“We already knew that staff retention rates were strong in the Highlands, and this, we believe, has a lot to do with the quality of life it affords. The wealth of outdoor and cultural pursuits available means that people can enjoy quality free time, which is conducive to high performance throughout the working week.”

Making connections with Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Serco worked closely with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) throughout the development and launch of the Caledonian Sleeper contract, and credits the organisation for the genuine support it provided throughout the process.

After learning it had secured the contract in 2014, HIE hosted the Caledonian Sleeper’s London team for a visit to the Highlands so it could learn more about what the region had to offer.

Ryan found this experience invaluable:

“For people who haven’t visited the area, the Highlands seem very far away, with many perceiving it to be inaccessible and lacking many of the services we enjoy in the city.

“This visit really helped to dispel the myths and highlight the many benefits of running a business from the north of Scotland. We learned about the first class IT infrastructure, the people and the lifestyle, and this really helped to bring to life our plans for the new service.

“We are committed to the Highland region and have really benefitted from HIE’s support. The organisation has been an invaluable source of advice, information and networks, and this has given us the resources we needed to launch the new service with such great success.

"We continue to work closely with HIE as our contract progresses, which is testament to the committed service it provides to businesses and organisations like Serco who invest in the Highlands and Islands.”

Next steps

If you're thinking of of Scotland as your next home, why not talk to SDI or HIE, and find out what kind of support is available?

Contract Vicky Grant at Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Get in touch with Scottish Development International