Important Announcement about December and January Train Services
Due to the ever changing situation and the uncertainty that this provides, the ELR has taken the decision to cancel all public services from 26th December to 3rd January, 2021 inclusive. Advanced purchase ticket holders for this period will be refunded.
Over the Christmas holiday period, our contact centre will open, Monday – Friday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and Saturday / Sunday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, with the exception of Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, when it will be closed.
We look forward to welcoming visitors back in 2021. Our first planned Dining with Distinction train runs on Saturday 13th February, click here to book online. The first major event will be the return of Flying Scotsman on Good Friday, 2nd April, click here to find out more and book online.
There are a number of ways in which you can support the East Lancs Railway during these challenging times, find out how here.
May we take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support during 2020, and wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Santa Special Update – 17 December 2020
Following guidance from Bury Council and confirmation from the government that Greater Manchester will remain under Tier Three regulations, regrettably we have been forced to cancel the remainder of the existing Santa Special and Festive Dining trains, due to run 19-24 December.
Our contact centre is expected to receive a high volume of calls over the coming days, so we will be contacting all of those affected directly and full refunds will be offered.
All dining passengers affected will be offered alternative dates which are available online: http://www.diningwithdistinction.co.uk
All passengers booked for the Santa Specials (19-24 December) will be offered the option to transfer to the ‘Elfmas: Letters to Santa’ event. Passengers opting to transfer to this new event can either choose to (1) take a partial refund, (2) make a donation, or (3) take a train ride on any operating day in 2020 or 2021, excluding special events. Full details will follow via e-mail correspondence – customers are advised to check their Junk/Spam folder.
Find out more about Elfmas below http://www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk/plan-your-day-out/elfmas-letters-to-santa.aspx
Christmas Greetings from the ELRPS Board
Firstly, and most importantly I hope and trust that you and your family are keeping safe and well in these difficult times.
Who could have imagined last Christmas what a devastating year 2020 would be for us all and especially for the East Lancashire Railway. On the back of a successful 2019 Santa season, we were looking forward to the return of the iconic Flying Scotsman, our galas, and regular annual events. Sadly, the response to the Corona-virus resulted in the railway entering a period of lock-down from March to July and as I write it is still closed with hopes that we may re-open on 19 December and be able to offer some form of Santa service.
Throughout the pandemic the Society Board has continued to meet and conduct Society business using Zoom and I would like to express my gratitude to all Society Directors for their efforts, and for keeping me in check. A big ‘Thank you’ is however due to John Tate for arranging, minuting and circulating the minutes of the meetings; to Howard Ford for all his efforts which allowed us to obtain charitable status and for balancing the Society accounts; Steve Gregory for managing the Society membership database and ensuring membership renewal forms were sent out; Glenn Clarkson for maintaining, regularly updating and further developing the Society Website (www.elrps.co.uk) and to Rory Lushman for the production and distribution of the Society magazine ELR Review.
It is with deep regret that I advise of the deaths of the following members of the Society who were active volunteers on the railway and will be sadly missed:
Barry Turvin; Geoffrey Finch; Paul Carter; Thomas Long; John Ellins; Terrence Twamley; Brian Dunsire; Pamela Jackson; John Smith; Keith Ringwood; David Miller; Arthur Bayfield; John Burns and Trevor Hadfield; Alan Wareham and Sandra Law.
Due to the ongoing uncertainty resulting from lock-downs and social distancing requirements the Society 2021 Annual General Meeting will follow the format of this year's meeting with the required documentation and ballot forms being issued by post. I do not think that I have fully recovered from this year’s AGM experience where we faced delays at the printers, the mailing house and finally Royal Mail which resulted in some members not receiving their ballot papers until after the closing date. Once this was identified we extended the closing date by three weeks to ensure that all votes were counted.
It is therefore proposed that the required documentation and ballot forms will be posted mid-March 2021 with a closing date for return of 27 April 2021.
It is reassuring to see that many existing members are returning their membership renewal forms in advance of the 31 December expiry date and most pleasing that even though the railway has been disrupted we are still attracting new members. I can also advise that the East Lancashire Light Railway Company will be re-instating the three full line return tickets for Society members with effect from 1 January 2021, subject to services being allowed to operate. Please check the ELR website www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk for any restrictions.
For those members who were renewing their membership and for life members we encouraged you to complete Gift Aid forms which will allow the Society to seek payments from HMRC. For those who have returned the forms I thank you and a special thanks for those who included a donation. If you have not already done so, and you are a UK taxpayer, may I encourage you to complete the form which can be found on the website www.elrps.co.uk/gift-aid.
As I have previously advised the Society’s largest expenditure is the production and distribution of the ELR Review, to enable us to reduce our operating costs we would like to offer you the opportunity to receive your copy electronically, not only does this save us money, but you will also receive your copy up to three weeks earlier than normal. If you would like to opt for an electronic copy, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year we have committed over £130,000 of Society funds in supporting the East Lancashire Light Railway Company through this disastrous year, and whilst they have been successful in obtaining other external grant aid regrettably several staff remain on furlough and there have been redundancies. Should you wish to support the railway directly please visit www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk where you can find their ‘Just Giving’ page and information about raffles for some amazing prizes.
May I on behalf of the directors wish you and your loved ones an as Merry Christmas as possible and a peaceful and healthy New Year
© Pat Kilner
Santa's - Green Light – 11 December 2020
After two very challenging weeks where our whole Santa Season hung by a thread, we have, at last, received good news.
As you can see from the communication from Bury Council below we have been given the green light to run Santa Specials in two formats, one contingent on whether Bury goes into Tier 2 (we can then run the traditional programme with Covid Safe changes).
Those of you who follow the covid cases locally will know that currently Bury has the highest number of cases at 235/100,000. I understand these increases are
very localised episodes and containable. However, at this stage there is no certainty Bury will drop down a Tier.
In the event Bury doesn’t qualify to go into Tier 2 we will revert to a platform based event with a Santa Grotto location on Platform 2. Mark Hill will now progress to the ‘oven ready’ stage.
It’s still a bit complicated and as you can imagine we have further work to do, but at least we have something positive to work towards.
In an earlier e mail from the Council they praised the ELR for a very thorough risk assessment and my thanks go to Mark Hill and John Arnold who worked tirelessly over last week to get the risk assessments over to the Council, as promised, on Monday.
Bury Council Decision
“I am pleased to confirm that ‘Informal Cabinet’ agreed with the recommendation of the Events Safety Advisory Group that the ELR events can proceed as follows:
Tier 3 = Platform Based Experience
Tier 2 = Santa’s Special Rides
I will let the Group know and it may be that the Police will be in touch directly about plans for crowd control measures, particularly if we are in Tier 2 and the pubs and restaurants re-open.
We look forward to working with you to finalise the details of the events in whichever format they run and making sure the events are safe and enjoyable.
Our first priority continues to be health protection. Therefore we would welcome the opportunity to review your plans as they develop and to be able to visit the site once you have things set up”.
Overall, as I have said previously we need to be ready to go with either event. As I understand it the Government Review of Tiers is to be announced on the 16th December.
Could I therefore ask all our volunteers who are able to help out to be ready once we firm up on what activity we can deliver?
Santa Special Update – 5 December 2020
By any standard the resolve of our staff and volunteers has been sorely tested over the past week. From excitement to running Santa’s to the devastation in losing the event all together was quite a roller coaster ride.
The move into Tier 3 with tighter restrictions resulted in Bury Council not giving us permission to run. As a result Tracey and her team were left with no choice but cancel the next two weekends 5-6 & 12-13 December to give us some ‘thinking’ time.
Given the council deemed Santa trains were classed an ‘indoor’ attraction, we turned our attention on creating an alternative festive experience which was an ‘outdoor’ attraction with a platform based activity with a Santa Grotto as its centrepiece (allowed under Tier 3).
A small team brainstormed this alternative activity. This was further developed with ‘Alibi’ productions (who provided performers for our recent Halloween event). As a result a draft outline of the activity was sent to the council on Wednesday (2 December). Whilst the council haven’t said yes/no they have asked that a full risk assessment is worked up.
It’s a long shot but just in case Bury goes into Tier 2 on the 19th December (all Tiers to be reviewed nationally to be announced, I believe, by the Prime Minister on the 16th December). If Bury is to go into Tier 2 we need to ready so we are also revising our original risk assessment which included a train ride and Santa handing out presents under Tier 2 regulations. This risk assessment will also be submitted to the council.
Whilst we are talking there’s hope.
Keep the Faith!
Raffle to Win Dining & Steam Train Experience
To help raise funds during this difficult time, the ELR will be hosting raffles, the first of these is for a four course meal for two on our award winning Red Rose Dining service.
Raffle tickets cost £5 and an alternative cash prize is available. If you are feeling lucky, below is a link to the raffle - good luck!
Step on board our traditional Pullman style carriages and be transported back in time to an age where to dine by train was the height of sophistication. Enjoy first class service and fine dining behind one of our historic steam engines whilst journeying through the charming Lancashire countryside soaking up the picturesque panoramas as you go.
This prize consists of two tickets for our Red Rose dining experience on any available date of your choice during 2021. Diners run from April through to November 2021, the total value of the prize is £116. If the prize winner is unable to attend for any reason or simply would prefer to receive the value of the tickets instead then this can be accommodated. If the Railway is unable to deliver the product for any reason for example, Covid-19 restrictions, then the full value of the prize will be paid to the winner.
Middleton Band Advent Calendar 2020
As we are unable to take part in our usual festivities this year, we are marking our festive season with a virtual advent calendar! Today we throwback to one of our favourite festive events of the year which cannot go ahead just at the moment due to Covid restrictions.
In addition to disappointed visitors, volunteers and of course the band, this is having a devastating effect on the future of the railway.
Joint East Lancs Railway and Bury Council Statement
Website Statement – 2 December 2020
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.”