The return of the night train

Written by Scarlett Regan, Researcher

Edited by Laura Hamilton, Managing Partner

Good morning,

A few years ago, I had the joy of travelling on the Caledonian Sleeper train from London to Edinburgh for the first time. The whole experience was amazing, from somewhat bizarrely being in my pyjamas at midnight on a train, to being awoken by a train guard with a hot cup of tea, a doughy croissant and a carton of orange juice on a crisp Waverley morning. So, I am personally delighted about what has recently been hailed as a renaissance of the “wagons-lits” all over Europe and beyond. Yes, they might not be quite the opulent, white linen and fine dining trains of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, but I don’t think we should be taking much inspiration from a murder story anyway. In any case, what could be more mysteriously exotic than Bucharest to Budapest or Paris to Rome no matter what they’re serving up in the dining car. A sleeper train service from Vienna to Brussels was recently announced, as well as one from Malmö to Cologne, with onward connections allowing Swedish passengers to be in London in time for lunch. Perhaps Greta Thunberg had something to do with that. Closer to home, my beloved Caledonian Sleeper has invested a huge £150m into their new stock, unveiled last year, albeit with the first train arriving three hours late. If the railways get their act together to revitalise the night network and the rolling stock, this could signal a new dawn for green travel, choo-choo-ing away from sepia-tinted past. P.S. if my nostalgia for the Caledonian Sleeper has inspired you, here is a list of ten of the best sleeper trains in Europe, according to the Guardian.


Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle yesterday was more interesting than expected. The Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid unexpectedly resigned having only been in the job for eight months, to be replaced by ‘rising star’ Rishi Sunak, an ally of Boris Johnson. ‘Outspoken Brexiteer’ Anne-Marie Trevelyan has replaced Alok Sharma as International Development Secretary, whilst Brexiteer Suella Braverman has replaced Geoffrey Cox as Attorney General. Amanda Milling, also known to be a key ally of the prime minister, has replaced James Cleverly as Party Chairman.

Britain’s ninth coronavirus victim was ill for two days before going to A&E in an Uber. Chief Executive of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens, has warned that many more people might need to self-isolate to stop the virus from spreading, particularly after the 83 evacuees from Wuhan were released from quarantine yesterday. Cases of the virus climbed by a steep 14,840 yesterday, after Hubei authorities decided to use a broader definition to diagnose people. (£)  The US Attorney General William Barr publicly rebuked President Donald Trump yesterday, in an interview with ABC News. He said that Trump’s tweets about ongoing criminal cases has made it impossible to do his job. This follows widespread anger about the Justice Department announcing it would reduce the length of the prison sentence for Roger Stone, a convicted former advisor to the president. Barr announced yesterday that he is “not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody” and that he hopes Trump will react to what he has said. (£)  Nasa has unveiled details of the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft. Ultra-red and peanut shaped, ‘Arrokoth’ is located one billion miles behind Pluto in the Kuiper belt. Nasa’s New Horizon spacecraft reached it on New Year’s Day in 2019, but because of the immense distance from Earth, the data from this encounter is still being received here. This remarkable finding might answer questions about how planetary formation began, a topic debated amongst scientists for decades.

Business and economy

The chief executive of Barclays, Jes Staley, is under investigation over links with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Staley has said that he “deeply regrets” a professional relationship with Epstein, who he has been in contact with since 2000, when he became head of JP Morgan’s private bank. This relationship involved Epstein referring wealthy clients to Staley, lending him his yacht, and naming him as a contact in his “black book”. Shares in Barclays fell by 2.6 per cent yesterday morning. (£)  The US Justice Department has strengthened its attack on Chinese tech giant Huawei, filing new charges on allegations of stealing trade secrets. The Justice Department proclaimed in a statement that Huawei’s efforts to ‘misappropriate intellectual property’ have been going on for decades. The company’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou has denied the allegations.  Just two weeks after Elon Musk, chief executive of electric car manufacturer Tesla, announced that there was no need to raise money, he has decided to tap shareholders for $2 billion. Tesla’s share price has trebled in value over the past six months, and initially after the announcement, shares fell, but then rose up 4.8 per cent. 2.64 million shares are now available for shareholders: Elon Musk will buy $10 million in stock, whilst board member Larry Ellison will purchase $1 million worth of shares. (£)  The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has revealed that it plans to change its name later this year to the ‘Natwest Group’. This announcement follows its report of a near doubling of annual profits, at £3.1 billion in 2019. Alison Rose, appointed chief executive for the bank last year, has also announced that RBS is committed to making its own operations net carbon zero by the end of 2020, which follows a similar announcement from Lloyds Banking Group.

Columns of note

In The Times, Philip Collins argues that Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle is ‘feeble’. Collins states that Johnson has acted like a school bully, and has exposed his own weakness by removing cabinet members who might challenge his authority. He continues to write that Johnson has appointed the ‘C-team’, and that existing ministers such as Dominic Raab and Priti Patel have only been allowed to stay because they are ‘second-rate’. Collins laments that this first reshuffle after the election has shown Johnson’s stark lack of ideas rather than clarity of purpose. (£) And in The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal argues that coronavirus is a ‘data time bomb’, meaning that it will take a long time for us to understand the impact of the outbreak on the global economy. He notes that even though less than 0.0008 per cent of the humans on Earth have been diagnosed with the virus, the whole world has been affected, as a result of Chinese manufacturing cities being entangled with the world’s supply chains. The magnitude of the economic consequences outside China is uncertain, Madrigal argues, and local reporting is not entirely trustworthy. (£)

Source: The Telegraph


What happened yesterday?

Coronavirus was the dominant force on European stock markets yesterday, which spent the day recovering from early losses following news from the Chinese authorities of an almost 15,000 person increase in the number of reported cases. This followed revisions to methodology for reporting coronavirus infections to now include ‘suspected cases’. By the end of trading, the pan-European Stoxx 600 had fought back from the day’s early losses to finish down just 0.02% at 431.08, while the Dax was 0.03% lower at 13,745.43. UK markets were set back by the same news and by a contagious reaction to how the European markets had responded.  But as the day progressed, the UK markets were further shaken by domestic politics as what was meant to be a minor and somewhat predictable reshuffle of cabinet posts spiralled with the shock resignation of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid. Coronavirus news preoccupied the US markets too – with all major indices ending the day slightly behind: the Dow down 0.43% at 29,423.31, the Nasdaq down 0.14% at 9,711.97 and the S&P down 0.16% at 3.373.94.

What's happening today?

Finals Astrazeneca Royal Bank of Scotland Segro

Final Dividend Payment Date Baring Emerging Cardiff Property Future Manchester&Ion. Shaftesbury Tracsis

UK Economic Announcements 9:30 Retail Sales

International Economic Announcements 7:00 GDP (Preliminary) (GER) 10:00 Balance of Trade (EU) 10:00 GDP (Preliminary) (EU) 13:30 Retail Sales (US) 13:30 Import and Export Price Indices (US) 14:15 Capacity Utilisation (US) 15:00 U. of Michigan Confidence (Prelim) (US) 15:00 Business Inventories (US)

Source: Financial Times

Did you know?

Poundland has sold nearly 40,000 engagement rings ahead of Valentine's Day today.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons No business scheduled. House of Lords

No business scheduled.

Scottish Parliament No business scheduled.