Following the publication of the new Tier 3 regulations by the Government, and guidance from Bury Council, regrettably there is not enough preparation time for us to adapt our service and operate Santa Specials over the next two weekends.
As a result, Santa Specials covering the weekends 5-6 and 12-13 December will unfortunately have to be cancelled.
Discussions continue with Bury Council to understand if the ELR can make changes to its operations, in order to run a Covid-secure service that complies with new Tier 3 regulations. Once those discussions are concluded customers who are booked onto Santa Specials for the remaining dates from 19 December onwards will be updated.
Refunds will be available for passengers booked onto the Santa weekends 5-6 & 12-13 December. Passengers do not need to take any action as these will be processed automatically. However, passengers may wish to hold off on seeking a refund until discussions with Bury Council have been concluded, as a Santa Specials experience may still be available before Christmas and existing ticket holders will be able to transfer to this new experience if they wish to.
Mike Kelly, ELR Chairman said: “this news will be a bitter disappointment for our staff and volunteers who have worked tirelessly in recent months to prepare our Santa Specials in a way that was fully compliant with the Covid-19 restrictions. However, with the announcement of new Tier 3 regulations last week, we’ve had to pause again and reassess the plans.
“It’s with a very heavy heart that we have to make this announcement at such a late stage, but this was simply out of our control. However we cannot operate Santa Specials without the permission of Bury Council and it has taken them time to assess the new regulations and give us a decision to run a Covid safe activity.
“I want to sincerely thank all our customers and volunteers for their patience as we work to understand the impact of Tier 3 on further Santa Specials from 19 December.”
Cllr Jane Black, cabinet member for the cultural economy, said: “We completely understand that the Government’s new Tier 3 rules will be a bitter blow to the East Lancs Railway, and to the many children and families who were looking forward to a festive ride on the Santa Specials.
“However, the law specifically says that indoor attractions at heritage railways must close.
“We all want life to get back to normal, particularly on special occasions such as Christmas. This demonstrates the importance of getting the covid infection rate down, so the Government will move us out of Tier 3 and restrictions on our daily lives are eased. The next review is due in two weeks’ time.
“We will be having further discussions with the ELR to see if other Christmas entertainment can be provided at the stations in accordance with the law.”