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Vandals target East Kent Railway in Shepherdswell in a week of attacks

A historical railway has been dealt another blow at the hands of vandals who struck repeatedly in the past week.

Fences have been broken and signs and operational markers have been smashed along the track at East Kent Railway in Shepherdswell, near Dover.

East Kent Railway has been attacked by vandals again
East Kent Railway has been attacked by vandals again

A post on the attraction's facebook page revealed the news yesterday.

It said: "We are sad to say that we have been hit by vandals along our track between Shepherdswell and Eythorne multiple times this week.

"Last night (Saturday) saw the majority of our trackside signage and gradient markers smashed, defaced or stolen for no apparent reason.

"The night before saw fences broken and items placed on the tracks."

The railway, which originally transported coal from Kent's mines, has faced a devastating swathe of vandalism including an arson in recent years.

Previous vandalism at the East Kent Railway in August 2019
Previous vandalism at the East Kent Railway in August 2019

Its financial security has been knocked further because its usual opening times, through the summer, have been disrupted by Covid-19 restrictions.

The team of volunteers have been working towards reopening as soon as they are allowed, because it has no income without visitor entrance fees and, according to its website, it is not covered by any Government funding scheme.

Matthew Plews, general manager, said the vandalism has increased since Covid lockdown was eased and the problem of graffiti in the tunnels has intensified in the past week.

He said: "I think now lockdown has eased children are looking for something else to do. It doesn't make it right of course."

There have been issues on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday which they reported it to police via the website.

"Every time we think we're about ready to reopen something else happens..."

Yesterday he and a driver discovered marker signs were missing and they had to keep stopping the train to move objects from the tracks.

Last August the marquee was destroyed at the Eythorne station. In October they were devastated by an arson in the woodlands which nobody has ever been arrested for despite an intensive police investigation.

He added: "Every time we think we're about ready to reopen something else happens. It's one thing after another.

"When Covid came along we had a lot of trespassing which we thought we had nipped in the bud until last week and last week has been absolutely horrendous.

That signage down the track is probably going to cost between £8-10,000 to repair and the trackside fencing is £600.

"For us its about reinforcing that railway tracks are not the place to be hanging around.

"If you are caught trespassing and if you're caught trying to derail a train, you can go to prison for it. It's quite serious, even if it is a heritage railway."

Mr Plews says the trust is doing all it can to secure the site but they are limited by funding and health and safety parameters.

CCTV has been installed but there are cash and logistical issues associated with installing cameras, plus health and safety regulations prevent full patrols of the site, especially around the tracks.

The volunteers were hoping to reopen in three weeks time but now it will be early August - depending on the speed they can replace the signs.

Renovation of the buildings affected by October's arson are near ready for use and a school will occupy them during the week while the railway trust will utilise them for exhibitions at weekends.

After last week's vandalism, the trustees are again appealing for donations to pay for the repairs before they can reopen.

If you would like to donate, visit the East Kent Railway page on Facebook.

Kent Police have been contacted for comment.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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