Vandals face risk of fines

Vandals face risk of fines

7 April 2021

TEENAGERS trespassing at the Downpatrick and Co Down Railway have been warned that they could be fined up to £1,000.

Heritage railway officials have issued the warning after a number of young people squeezed under security gates at the entrance to the facility at the Lower Market Street car park.

Footage of the teenagers making their way to the railway lines was recently posted on the TikTok video social networking service alongside comments that those involved were not acting legally.

However, railway officials insist that those who engage in such activity are breaking the law, liable to prosecution and could face a hefty fine.

The most recent incident is the latest in a series which the heritage railway has suffered.

Officials are particularly concerned about ongoing vandalism at its Inch Abbey station where significant work is required before passengers will be allowed to return when lockdown restrictions ease.

Repair work will have to be funded by the railway which has been left disappointed after an application it submitted for £27,000 in Covid charity funding resulted in a paltry offer of just £375.

Since the start of the pandemic there have been a series of incidents at Inch Abbey with officials concerned that an entrance sign which was donated to the railway has been stolen.

Railway chairman Robert Gardiner said the sign was donated by Philip Houston of Get Noticed Signs to mark the 90th birthday of his uncle, Bobby Martin, who had been a fireman on the old Belfast and County Down Railway.

He revealed that one of Bobby’s relatives who spotted the sign — erected in 2015 — was missing and alerted railway officials who believe it was removed recently

“We hoped we would find the sign amongst the vegetation but no luck,” explained Robert. “The sign is made from three millimetre alloy composite and isn’t worth anything in scrap value. Given that it has Downpatrick and Co Down Railway branding it’s quite obvious where it’s from. 

“Bobby sadly passed away a few years ago, so we would urge the culprit to return it, even just push it through the main gate at Downpatrick.”

Robert is also appealing to anyone who may have spotted those involved in removing the sign to contact the railway or police.

“In the meantime, we would remind people that the Inch Abbey station remains closed and that trespass on a railway, even a heritage railway, is liable to criminal prosecution and a fine of up to £1000 under the Regulation of Railways Act 1868.” he said.

Mr Gardiner said a railway was “full of hidden dangers” and appealed to parents to make sure that their children are not treating the local facility as a drinking den, revealing that police regularly check the line and have spotted trespassers who fled.

He also revealed that he recently encountered two young people about to go out to the railway line and advised them not to do so.

The incidents at the local railway are the latest in a series across the district which has prompted police to issue an online appeal to young people and parents.

A number of litter bins were recently set on fire in Ballynahinch, sports equipment belonging to Killyleagh GAC was set on fire, with young people drinking close to the Kilmore sports field causing a disturbance.

Confirming what they describe as a “significant rise” in reports of anti-social behaviour across the district, the PSNI said it appreciates that times have been difficult for young people and that there are few outlets available to them.

“The issue is when the young person’s behaviour strays into criminal behaviour,” the social media post continues.

“Parents, do you know where your children are and who they are with? No parents wants us bringing their children home or getting a phone call because we have had to arrest their son or daughter.”

Turning to young people, the social media post said if they are with their friends and having a good time, no one wants to spoil their fun.

The post continues: “If, however, you are lighting fires, throwing stones at people or their homes, drinking, smashing bottles or doing any other things that you know in your heart are wrong, stop and think for a moment.

“Do you really want to be associated with this, get arrested and a criminal record. These are the the things that could happen. It is your future, don’t let the behaviour of others dictate yours.”

Anyone who would like to support the efforts of the Downpatrick and Co Down Railway to carry out repair work at the Inch Abbey station can do so by donating to its ‘back on track’ appeal or text RAIL plus your amount to 70450, for example,  RAIL10 for £10, RAIL20 for £20). Additional information about the appeal is available at