IT might be his busiest time of the year, but Father Christmas has taken time out from his hectic schedule to drive buses around Bolton.

Passengers boarding South Lancs Travel buses about town may get a surprise this week, if their driver turns out to be Santa.

Disguised by his red suit, festive hat and white fluffy beard, Jimmy Gregson says he just wants to “put a smile on people’s faces”.

The 63-year-old bus driver has been driving dressed as Father Christmas every year for 15 years.

Each year, for the two-week period before Christmas, he dons the costume his wife Denise made for him and fills his sack full of lollies and gets behind the wheel to deliver Christmas cheer around the town.

Mr Gregson, a father-of-three, drives on a number of bus routes in Bolton, including the 521, which travels through Blackrod, Westhoughton, to the Royal Bolton Hospital, Farnworth and Little Lever, and the 300 to the Trafford Centre.

He said: “When you see the little ones, and the expression on their faces as they look up and see Santa looking down at them, they are gobsmacked.

“That is what I do it for and I have my lollies at the ready to give to the kids.

“You get one or two adults who crack up laughing and say it is the last thing they expected to see and you see the smiles on their faces.

“I enjoy it, it helps get you through the day. I think the majority of people who get the South Lancs bus will have seen me at one stage or another.”

Mr Gregson lives in Leigh and has been a bus driver for more than 40 years.

Although he did wear a Santa costume a few times when he worked for First Bus, it was not until he started working for Atherton-based South Lancs that it became a tradition.

He said most people were happy to see him in his costume, but he tried to avoid the school run as he youths had given him abuse in the past.

This year he is finishing work for Christmas tomorrow and says he will pack his suit away for next year.