Colourful mural transforms town centre railway bridge
A Basingstoke town centre railway bridge has been given a new lease of life as part of a colourful arts project.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has been working with Network Rail and Hampshire County Council on an £84,000 improvement project at a railway bridge in Vyne Road.
Work includes new guttering and drainage, enhanced cleaning, painting the walls and measures to prevent pigeons roosting in the tunnels.
This follows a petition launched by the local community in November 2021 calling for action to tackle pigeon mess.
As part of the project, Basingstoke artist Fatima Pantoja and local community volunteers have transformed a section of the tunnel with a colourful mural, funded by the borough council.
The design, which celebrates South View, notable Basingstoke figures and the area’s biodiversity, was created following a resident workshop organised by South View Residents’ Association and Basingstoke Heritage Society.
Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services and Housing Cllr Laura James said: “I am pleased that, by working together with Hampshire County Council and Network Rail, we have been able to address an issue which really matters to the local community and drive forward improvement works as quickly as possible.
“I would like to thank Fatima and residents for working with us and bringing this well-used tunnel to life with a colourful mural which has been inspired by the local community and Basingstoke Heritage Society to celebrate the area. We hope these improvements will make walking and cycling through the tunnel a better experience for everyone and we will continue to work with our partners to explore further improvements that could be made at the Chapel Hill side of the bridge.”
Cllr Nick Adams-King, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Universal Services, said: “The county council is very pleased that on this occasion, we have been able to contribute towards making the bridge a more pleasant place under which people walk and cycle.”
Martin Eastwood, Chair of South View Residents’ Association, said: “As one of the few level pedestrian access points to the town centre from north of the railway line this initiative - which will brighten up what has been, quite frankly, a bleak, dismal, dirty and uninviting part of Basingstoke for many years - is very welcome."
Debbie Reavell from the Basingstoke Heritage Society added: “Many hundreds of residents from north of the railway use the Vyne Road bridge pathway every day on their way to and from town. The bridge is, like many railway bridges, rather gloomy with odd drips and the risk of a pigeon finding your coat with its well-aimed droppings. It is not until now a place to linger.
“But how different it is becoming. Artist Fatima Pantoja is heading a community project to paint a long mural along the tiled wall and the mural showcases many local buildings and sights relevant to the northern part of our town. We see the railway station, the cemetery ruins, families and children, mobility scooters and as a theme a locomotive pulling carriages with Basingstoke worthies who are buried in the old cemetery. All of this in a lovely light style. Fatima does the drawings and many residents are colouring in the work, under her direction. The colours are fresh and reflect the dark yews and lighter specimens in the cemetery. Working on the mural, which requires no artistic skill, is absorbing and very neighbourly as most people cannot pass by without commenting on progress or wondering how they could be involved."
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “It’s great to see the scheme completed from start to finish. Fatima and the local volunteers have made a huge difference to the local area with the brightly coloured artwork.
“We want Basingstoke’s railway infrastructure to be a clean and welcoming environment for passengers and local residents living alongside the railway. We hope that art schemes like this will encourage people to look after the infrastructure for generations to come.”
Jenny Keen, Basingstoke Station Manager for South Western Railway, said: “It’s lovely to see the work that Fatima and her volunteers have done to thoughtfully rejuvenate the Vyne Road railway bridge tunnel, with a mural which celebrates Basingstoke and the railway. I hope our customers and the local community agree it really brightens up the space and take the time to stop and enjoy it the next time they walk through.”