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Severn Valley Santa trains heading for a sell-out (5th November 2012)

THE GROTTOS are ready, the faint tinkle of sleighbells can be heard on the wind, and Santa is on his way. Yes, Christmas IS still almost two months away, but the Severn Valley Railway is already posting ‘sorry, sold out’ notices on many of the 100 ‘Santa Steam Special’ trains it will be running next month.

‘Seeing Santa on a steam train at the Severn Valley’ has been a traditional and unmissible adventure for untold thousands of families over the past 40 years – but the evidence is that they are booking their seats earlier than ever before.

The Kidderminster-to-Bridgnorth steam heritage railway which will carry more than 35,000 passengers from Kidderminster to Santa’s Grotto at Arley during the four December weekends before Christmas (December 1/2, 8/9, 15/16 and 22/23), has already sold out 16 trains, a further 16 are ‘virtually full’, and around 500 bookings a day are being received via telephone or the internet.

“We say this every year, and truly, it isn’t a ‘sales pitch’ - but everyone is booking earlier for Santa” said SVR General Manager Nick Ralls today. “We don’t want to turn anyone away, so the message really is ‘book now’, or risk being disappointed.”

December is the busiest month of the year by far for the SVR, the calendar being chock-full with ‘Santa Special’ trains, ‘Santa’s Herald’ trains (December 21st only, when Santa travels on the train to Highley), Saturday evening Christmas Carol trains (December 8/15 & 22), Christmas luncheon and evening dining trains, and ‘Christmas Cracker’ trains over seven days, which are pre-booked by schools parties (latest update - 85 per cent sold).

And when Christmas is over, the railway will be straight into a busy schedule of ‘Festive Season’ steam trains, which run from Boxing Day, December 26 to Sunday January 6th – a time when traditionally, families combine a steam train ride with a country walk after the Christmas excesses.

SVR Visitor Services Manager David Mee confirms that Santa train bookings are running around two weeks ahead of last year’s figures - which translates to some 3,000 people booking their seats earlier.

The fare of £11.95 includes a present from Santa for all children over the age of 12 months, although as in previous years, the SVR is offering a discounted ticket at £10.50 for the first weekend of ‘Santa Specials’ on December 1/2. For the first time in a number of years, and because of the way the calendar falls, there will be no trains on Christmas Eve.
    
The Railway’s three Christmas Carol Trains, another cornerstone of the winter season in which passengers travel from Kidderminster to Highley, with a stop at Arley to sing Christmas carols on the platform there, are ‘booking strongly’, with the December 22 train ‘virtually full’. Singing is being led this year by The New Dimensional Experience Choir.

Ticket sales across all of the Railway’s December trains have been helped by a programme of radio advertising, chiefly through Signal Radio and satellite stations such as The Wyre, and The Wolf.