Councillor Brown Supports Downpatrick Railway Efforts.
Newry Mourne and Down District Rowallene Councillor Patrick Brown said: “I am shocked and saddened to hear about recent vandalism along the Down Railway over the past weekend.
“This comes at a time when this valuable part of our local tourist economy is already struggling due to COVID and it is a further blow to the morale of volunteers who work tirelessly to maintain and improve this local heritage asset.
“I would appeal to anyone with information about this vandalism to come forward to the PSNI, and I will be liaising with them directly myself to find who did this and ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
Speaking today to Down News, Robert Gardiner Chairman of Downpatrick and County Down Railway, said there have been a number in incidents over the past few months that have caused considerable consternation.
Robert Gardiner, again voiced his concerns about intruders at the Downpatrick railway project causing damage to the rail stock and property after an intrusion last weekend
He said: “Since March, we have had broken windows, attempts to burn property, and a fence being pulled down and other incidents.
“All of these and more have a cost not just financial. To replace a glass pane on a window that was smashed, the glass alone cost £250. Then there is the process of someone having to make a custom frame which is very time consuming and costly.
“But this constant stream of vandalism does nothing for the appearance of the railway to visitors. It is just very disappointing that people have to behave like this.
“Our volunteers give their hard work to Downpatrick railway and it is discouraging to find these incidents recurring. It drains our resources.
“We have been in contact with the local police and are meeting them later today allow with Councillors Patrick Brown and Alan Lewis. I’m hoping something comes out of this.”
Robert explained that “attacks of vandalism affect the morale of volunteer workers and it needs to stop. It is draining on our organisation.
“We are trying very hard to make this project a family-friendly attraction so we have made efforts to improve the security of the premises we have which extends from near the Downpatrick town centre our to Inch Abbey with a sub-station in the middle.”
As the Covid-19 crisis hopefully eases, Robert explained that volunteers are gradually working back into making a contribution to working around the railway yard and improving the stock. He said that he had had offers from volunteers to patrol the railway premises out of hours.
Robert explained: “Since we opened, we have managed to get the visitor numbers up to almost 12,000 a year which is great. We were looking forward to 2020 but Covid-19 has completely ruined our hopes of building on these positive visitor numbers. But there is still time this year to see a few visitors through our gates yet.
“North Down MLA Andrew Muir is exploring powers where we can extend trespass law to include Downpatrick Railway which might deter future trespassers and vandals.”