PART of Alton Station’s Victorian footbridge was "smashed up" by contractors during its removal, conservationists have claimed.

Alton Station’s heritage footbridge was finally removed in the early hours of Saturday morning, to mark the first phase in a major renovation project by Friends of Alton Station (FAS) to preserve it for posterity.

Carried out by Network Rail (NR), while the first part of the operation to winch out the central span went well, FAS claimed contractors then “smashed up” the staircases, essential for the refurbishment programme.

However, Network Rail said the stairs were "rotten" and could not be saved.

According to FAS, the project will now be “more difficult, lengthy and expensive” and it will be seeking “recompense from NR for the vandalism carried out in its name”.

FAS said its members oversaw the removal of the bridge but later returned to find "wanton and enthusiastic" destruction of the stairs.

"They discovered that in their absence Network Rail’s contractors had completely smashed up the stair sets leading up from platforms one and two, and essential for the refurbishment programme," the group said.

"What should have been a time for celebration turned to anger as the team saw the remains of the stairways, splintered pieces of wood, being loaded on to a waste management lorry."

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the Friends of Alton Station have been able to retain what could be salvaged of the disused and derelict Victorian footbridge and hope that it will find a new home in the area."

The spokesman added: “Due to the severe rotten and unsafe condition of the staircases, we were always clear that it would not be possible to retain these.

"It was agreed between the two parties that salvageable pieces of the staircases would be kept and, during the work over the weekend of March 7/8, these were set aside for the group as arranged.

"Sadly, many of the rotten timbers were not salvageable. The works were carried out to time in line with the formal plan of works, no changes were made to the timing of the 52 hour project.”

See this week’s Alton Herald for more.