Charities to benefit from the return of the Christmas train

Calverley Adventure Grounds Black Tie Dinner 2

Two local charities are set to benefit this Christmas with the return of the Santa Express which shuttles shoppers around Tunbridge Wells.

The land train will be paid for by Markerstudy Leisure and the news comes after discussions between the company and the borough council.

Markerstudy Leisure, which operated the train in 2013 and 2014, is working with the council to ensure it can be securely parked at night, and has all the necessary permits for it to operate between The Pantiles and the Assembly Hall, via the High Street. It will run for 13 key days in the lead-up to Christmas.

For the first time, passengers will be asked to make donations to travel, with the money shared between Pickering Cancer Drop-in Centre, and Bridge Trust, which supports single homeless people in west Kent.

The commercial director for Markerstudy Leisure, Nick Moore, said: “We are delighted to announce that once again we are in the position of being able to offer the town a Santa Express this Christmas.

“Reports last week that there would be no train were premature and ill-informed.

“We have been working with the borough council and other parties to make the train happen. Indeed we offered the train to the council free of charge if they were in a position to operate it.

“Earlier this month (October 16) the council came back to us and advised they were not in a financial position this Christmas to take up our offer. Since then we have been looking at various options, always with a view to getting the Santa Express up and running.

“This week we concluded an arrangement with another independent company that specialises in running land trains such as the Santa Express. They will provide the train and the staff to operate it in Tunbridge Wells and Markerstudy will bear the full cost.

“We hope that, as in previous years, it will add an extra sparkle to the festive season in our town.”

Mr Moore added: “Over the last two years, we’ve tried to spread a bit of Christmas cheer in Tunbridge Wells, and spent more than £100,000 on running the Santa Express.

“If any other local businesses, want to join us and fund the train’s operation on further days, and help raise more money for the two local charities, we’d be very happy to hear from them.”

The other big winners will be the town’s retailers on the route, as well as the ice rink at Calverley Grounds.

Polly Taylor, co-founder of Pickering Cancer Drop-in Centre, said: “Christmas is a very difficult time for people and families having to deal with cancer. We’re delighted that the Santa Express is going to be raising money for our drop-in centre and services, which make a huge difference to people living in west Kent. Thank you.”

The Santa Express:

  • Launched in November 2013
  • Carried up to 30 people at a time
  • Has transported 17,000 people
  • Is expected to take thousands again this year


Among those set to bene? t from the Santa Express are retailers on the High street and The Pantiles who saw increased footfall as people took the train from the top of town.

Chris Pollard of La Roche patisserie on the corner of the High Street and London Road said the train’s return was ‘great news’.

He added: “By linking up the two halves of the town it helps the shops down here and it makes Tunbridge Wells stand out. It is good to have it back.”

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