A RAILWAY bridge branded an “eyesore” by the chairman of a Henley conservation group has now been targeted by vandals. Graffiti “tags” have been spray-painted on both sides of the overbridge on Mill Lane. A swear word was daubed on one side in white paint and the offenders also painted over a Network Rail information sign.
Geoff Luckett, chairman of the Henley Society, has been pressing Network Rail to refurbish the cast iron bridge since the end of last year. He asked if it could be sandblasted and repainted but the company said it did not have a budget for the work, which it said was cosmetic and not a structural problem.
Now Mr Luckett says the graffiti is drawing unwanted attention to the bridge, which is heavily rusted and also has overgrown vegetation on both sides. He said: “I’m disappointed because I think the bridge is an absolute eyesore and it does Henley no credit whatsoever.
“It is on a busy thoroughfare because it leads to Marsh Lock and the Henley FC ground. The graffiti has drawn much more attention to it and we don’t want that kind of language remaining on the bridge for a long time. One of our members has offered to go down and scrub it with a wire brush and then repaint the bridge. It would be quite a big job but Network Rail says they can’t have anyone who is not a professional working so close to a live railway line.”
The bridge is a priority for the society’s “treasures and eyesores” campaign in which members are asked to identify areas of the town that need special attention. Mr Luckett has been told by Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, that the plants will be cut back. “The vegetation may therefore be cleared,” he said. “However, all it’s going to do is highlight how bad the bridge is.”
Mr Luckett said he had reported the graffiti to Network Rail but he didn’t think it would change the company’s attitude. He said: “I did iterate in my previous correspondence with them that if they give specifications of how they want the work to be done, I could get a professional quotation, but they have totally ignored that. As always, all I want to see is the bridge being restored to an acceptable condition. It is just cosmetic as far as I can see, there is nothing structural. I know they would take greater notice if it was something to do with safety.”
A Network Rail spokesman for said: “We are aware that the overbridge has been targeted with graffiti. While we recognise graffiti can be unpleasant. the cost of removal can often be expensive. The safety of the public, passengers and our staff is our number one priority and our track engineers regularly check the condition of our rail infrastructure. The overbridge is not in need of repair and therefore is not something we would prioritise to do. However, in this instance, we understand some of the graffiti wording is offensive so we will do all we can to remove this as quickly as possible.”