IT was all aboard for the Santa Special this morning as 71 families from Westbury went on a train ride to Swindon.

The children all came from four local primary schools - Westbury Infants, Westbury Juniors, Westbury Leigh and Bitham Brook.

They clambered aboard the Santa Special at Westbury station to ride the Great Western Railway train to Swindon and back.

On the way, they were gifted Christmas presents, drinks and mince pies by Santa (Cllr Horace Prickett) and his elves, four members of the Westbury Lions Club.

The trip was organised by the TransWilts community rail group, with help from GWR and Westbury Lions.

TransWilts chairman Paul Johnson said: "We have been running this Santa Special event for several years but this is the first one just from Westbury.

"It's a good opportunity for the children to meet Santa and take a train ride to Swindon.

"We are grateful to Cllr Horace Prickett and to Sophie Martin, from TransWilts, for organising this event with Westbury Lions and GWR.

"We are also grateful to GWR for making this train available for us today and for protecting this service. They actually had a replacement bus service on over the weekend."

Cllr Prickett, who is the Wiltshire Council portfolio holder for public transport, said he was "delighted" for GWR's generosity in providing 21 more tickets for children and their families to use.

"We originally had 50 tickets but we have been able to take 71 because GWR issued 21 extra tickets to meet the demand.

"It is very generous of them and we are very pleased that we have been able to provide seats for more people."

The trip to Swindon is a sister ride to the Westbury Lions' Weymouth Wizard summer trip to the Dorset seaside town.

Jazz Brewer, 7, from Westbury Leigh Primary School, said she was "very excited" about going on the Santa Special, having never been on a train before. She was accompanied by her mum, Nikita, 32, from Westbury.

Also on the trip was Macie, 6, from Westbury Infants School, who had only ever been on a train ride to Trowbridge. She was accompanied by mum Micha, 28, her two brothers, Bentley, 9, and Leyton, 8, and youngster sister Nohla, 18 months.

Melksham Rail Users Group is planning its Santa Special trip to Swindon on Sunday, December 15, leaving Melksham station at 3pm and arriving home at 4.15pm.

The cost is £5 for a child under 15 and £10 for an adult. Tickets are on sale at the Melksham Tourist Information Centre in Church Street.