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Severn Valley Railway goes festive, after Santa trains break records (19th December 2011)

Severn Valley Railway goes festive, after Santa trains break records

THE SEVERN Valley Railway begins its after-Christmas ‘Festive Season’ steam trains on Boxing Day on the back of one of the most amazing ‘Santa’ seasons it has experienced in 40 years.

In the face of nationwide austerity and the economic downturn, the Kidderminster-to-Bridgnorth steam heritage line reports that all 30,200 available seats on its pre-Christmas ‘Santa’ trains - the last of which runs this Saturday - sold out – as did all places on its pre-Christmas luncheon and dining trains, and every seat on its Christmas carol trains.

“We haven’t hit figures like these at any previous Christmas this century – and probably for a very long time before that”, revealed David Mee, the SVR’s Visitor Services Manager, today.

“It’s usually the case that our first Santa trains in early December are slow to sell, and the last ones in the late afternoons generally have a few spare seats. But this year every single seat was snapped up - for the last three weeks, we’ve had no tickets left to sell - it’s been amazing.

“The statistics simply reinforce our belief in two things – firstly, when it comes to ‘seeing Santa’, nothing can compete with the wonderfully warm, friendly and nostalgic atmosphere of a live steam train to take you there, and secondly, even when the chips are down and family budgets are tightly stretched, people will sacrifice many things – but not their children’s enjoyment at Christmas.”

SVR Catering Manageress Elise Ballard echoed similar thoughts, after reporting a total sell-out of all tables on the railway’s pre-Christmas luncheon and dining trains, which have a maximum capacity of 143 covers per train. “There’s no doubt many people are under extreme financial pressure just now – but the Christmas experience is not something that many will compromise” she ventured.

With such a buoyant end to what has been a good year for the 16-mile steam heritage line, the SVR has already beaten its budgeted passenger figure of 205,000 passengers for the year, and with eight days of ‘Festive Season’ trains still to come between Boxing Day and January 2nd, the final figure could exceed 213,000.

The Festive Season steam trains which offer passengers access to a variety of country ands riverside walks in the Severn Valley to help ‘blow away the cobwebs’ after Christmas, start with a clean sheet on December 26th on a ‘turn-up-and-go’ basis, although fare discounts are offered to passengers who book in advance.

Five trains will run in each direction each day on the 16-mile railway, all calling at Highley for visits to The Engine House Visitor Centre. Departures go from Bridngorth at 10.10, 11.50, 13.50 15.15 and 15.50, and from Kidderminster at
10.25, 12 noon, 12.30, 14.00 and 16.00.

The 12.30 train from Kidderminster on New Year’s Eve includes a restaurant car for full dining, and the 15.15 from Bridgnorth on Wednesday December 28th offers afternoon tea – but as with the pre-Christmas dining options, all available covers have been sold out well in advance.

Photo - Bob Sweet