A heritage railway’s popular ‘Steam Trains to Santa’ event has been cancelled for 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions.

But the Aylsham-based Bure Valley Railway is launching a replacement event called the Festive Express where youngsters will still get the chance to meet Father Christmas.

Katie Melton, from the railway, said they wanted to run the new “Covid-secure” event because they “could not let Christmas pass without some festive cheer”.

She said: “This is a shorter experience, starting from Aylsham.

“Visitors will take all their refreshments onto the train, and there will be a 30-minute steam train ride up to Brampton and 30 minutes back.

“When they return, Santa will be there on his steam sleigh, to present a gift to each of them.”

Steam Trains to Santa is normally a highlight of the railway’s calendar, drawing thousands of visitors keen to soak up the festive atmosphere and enjoy the beautiful Broads setting in the lead up to Christmas Day.

Ms Melton said the new Festive Express services would run at weekends from December 5 and daily from December 19 up to Christmas Eve.

She said the services - which cost £12 per child - were appropriate for children aged up to 12, but adults were also welcome.

“We wanted to keep everyone safe and happy and offer something that’s just as good,” Ms Melton said.

The capacity of the services has been reduced to allow for social distancing, and screens have been placed between compartments.

The railway is also running a half-term promotion from Saturday, October 24 to Sunday, November 1.

The special ‘We’re Good to Go’ services means a free ride for up to two children - regardless of age - travelling with each adult.

Trains will operate hourly from both Aylsham and Wroxham stations.

Toilets, the cafe and gift shop are open at Aylsham Station and toilets, Bufferstop Books and shop open at Wroxham Station.

The Bure Valley Railway’s Brampton, Buxton and Coltishall stations will remain closed for the rest of the year, due to the ongoing restrictions.

Visit www.bvrw.co.uk or call 01263 733858 to book.