THERE might be light at the end of the tunnel for campaigners hoping to save the old footbridge at Alton railway station.

It had previously been scheduled for demolition in March but this week Network Rail confirmed campaign group Friends of Alton Station (FAS) had been given some wriggle room with negotiations.

"We are continuing discussions with the Friends of Alton Station group with regards to the wooden footbridge at the station and have allowed them additional time to develop and submit their proposals," a spokesman explained.

The 1892 bridge will now "not be removed in March this year as originally planned". This was welcomed by the group, which said it now had "renewed hope".

When members attended their last meeting with Network Rail at the end of October they were told "time had run out" for saving the bridge.

Officials pencilled the demolition for the last weekend in March to carry out the work in the current financial year.

"They refused to take on board new proposals from FAS which could mean the centre span of the wooden bridge being taken down carefully instead of being smashed to bits," spokesman Pat Lerew said.

"It could then be repaired and refurbished by FAS’s timber expert off site. However Network Rail said they had already wasted enough time and money on the bridge."

The group was then tasked with getting a report from a Network Rail approved engineer by November 23 last year, if new proposals would be considered.

"They were also unable to give a guarantee that if the bridge was removed for repair it would be reinstated," she added.

But FAS were "unable to comply with this ultimatum" which was set in an "impossible time frame".

The group then heard Network Rail, having underestimated the complexities of the demolition, may not be able to carry out the work before the end of this financial year. So they have until February 28 to produce an alternative plan.

"Does this mean the Heritage Footbridge has received another stay of execution?" she wondered.

"Network Rail has not said this in so many words but we do hope the flood of emails from all our supporters - and the intervention of MP Damian Hinds, railway historian Marcus Binney, support from local councillors and other influential people - has made Network Rail think again."