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Friends of Alton Station
The historic footbridge at Alton railway station has been closed for more than 8 months and during that time Friends of Alton Station (FAS) have been lobbying to get the bridge repaired and reopened. The chair, Stephen Lewis says, "We have been regularly asking Network Rail for updates, but it wasn't until last week that we got some tangible news. We were forwarded a copy of an internal Network Rail letter recommending the removal of the bridge over restoration, stating the much larger cost as the reason. I must stress that the letter is not a final decision from Network Rail, but it is clear that we have got to take action."
Looking at the bridge today, it is held up on one side by scaffolding and public access is blocked, so both passengers and visitors to the Watercress Line are required to walk the length of the platform each side to use the new bridge. Mr Lewis said, "After two surveys of the footbridge and its closure, we have been greatly concerned about the future of the bridge and the latest letter from Network Rail is a real blow. If their final decision is to remove the bridge, we are determined to fight on, exploring ways to finance the restoration to keep the bridge in situ."
Many stations across the country have been provided with new footbridges with lifts as part of a national scheme to make stations compliant with the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Mr. Lewis told us, "One must recognise the huge investment made by Network Rail to make its stations fully accessible. In Alton we have benefitted from our new bridge, but we also want to keep our historic bridge. We believe that it still has a practical use in situ and is part of the ambience for those travelling on the Watercress Line. To this end, we will shortly be meeting with a representative of Network Rail to see if we can negotiate a way forward. This coincides with Waitrose naming us as one of their three beneficiaries for their donation scheme and we encourage shoppers to put their green tokens in our section, giving us some start-up funds to help us in our quest to find ways to save the bridge."
The London and South Western Railway installed the all-wooden footbridge at Alton station in 1892 and is the last of its kind. Mr. Lewis went on to say, "Whilst it has become clear that quite a lot of the wood will need replacement, we believe that it is an important part of railway history and Alton's fabric that deserves preserving. It is a challenge to carry out such a project on a structure located over a public railway so, as ever, we will have to patiently negotiate and explore all the options. Whilst the future of the bridge is far from certain, be assured that the battle is not lost."
- 01420 544881
Find Friends of Alton Station
c/o Alton Community Centre, Amery Street, Alton, Hampshire, GU34 1HN