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Bridge safely removed to storage

By Stephen Lewis Friends of Alton Station

Monday, 9 March 2020


Friends of Alton Station Contributor


On Saturday 7th March 2020, the long-awaited day dawned. Actually, the removal took place at 5.49am just before dawn, so it was an early start for all. The centre section of the bridge was cut from the rest of the structure and craned onto the awaiting lorry. After five years of campaigning, the seemingly impossible became the reality. There was a slight delay whilst some metal brackets were cut short, but other than that, it all went very well.

Phill Bascombe Transport did a sterling job of transporting the bridge section the mile or so to Brant Storage (taking a route via the A31). Tim Brant-Coles had constructed a compound for the bridge, along with stack of sleepers, ready to receive the bridge. Phill Bascombe and his team made short work of craning the bridge into its new storage site. And, of course, everyone decamped to the nearby Departure Lounge Cafe for breakfast.

Thank you to everyone who supported us: members of the public, the Railway Heritage Trust, our MP Damian Hinds and our councillors. BBC South Today visited to interview us as we inspected the bridge in its new home and led to an excellent report on the local BBC news today (9th March). Phill Bascombe also took the chance to commission a video photographer to film the bridge move, including drone filming. Whilst the filming was primarily to promote the services of Bascombes, the footage was also broadcast as part of the TV news report and they are happy to share the film with us for our own uses. So, all in all, this part of the project was a great success.

The downside for both the FAS committee and members of the public at the station is what Network Rail did to the stair sections that had been left behind. FAS had previously tried and failed to get agreement by Network Rail for them to do their best to save as much as the stairs as possible. This request was turned down and our worst fears were realised. The demolition contractors laid into the structure and wilfully destroyed the stair and landing sections on both platforms, cutting everything into unusable pieces. Whilst the FAS committee members were at Brant Storage overseeing the bridge unloading, the contractors did their worst and carted off the majority of the remains before the FAS people got back to the station at noon. A very few items were saved, but this was little compensation and the euphoria of saving the centre section soon turned to anger. People were rightly complaining on Facebook and we could only say that the matter was entirely out of our hands.

Although Network Rail got their own way over the destruction of the stairs, we are now faced with a higher reconstruction cost, as we will now have to recreate the stairs from scratch. This is just another cost we could do without, so we are not going to let it rest - watch this space. It is unfortunate to have to complain, given how well the recovery of the centre section of the bridge went, but strangely enough, our objective was to save the whole bridge, not just part of it. This seemed to be lost on Network Rail, but the people of Alton are not impressed and we owe it to them to do all we can to make sure that faithful reproductions of the missing stairs can be recreated ready for the bridge to go back into use.

Contact Information

Stephen Lewis

Find Friends of Alton Station

c/o Alton Community Centre, Amery Street, Alton, Hampshire, GU34 1HN