Passers-by were so delighted to see the new artwork on Stepping Stone Bridge in Spalding taking shape, the artist was even handed an energy drink to keep him going.
Peter Barber, Network Rail’s approved artist, said: “One chap put an energy drink in my hand and said carry on the good work.
“I know the bridge has been a target for racist and offensive graffiti in the past, but it speaks for the spirit of the place that people were so positive about what I was doing.
“About 90 per cent of people said they think it looks lovely now. Everyone was surprised that it was a Network Rail initiative.”
Mr Barber said while working on the railway bridge, which is situated between Park Road and King’s Road, there had been a constant stream of passers-by and he hadn’t realised how busy it would be.
His biggest challenge had been the removal of the offensive graffiti before he could start his work and he said it was evident people had become very disheartened, believing that the bridge could never be anything other than an eyesore.
It was not long after the high-sided structure had been constructed in 2010 that headlines in the Free Press spoke of residents being too scared to cross at night because of anti-social behaviour and poor lighting.
In 2012, South Holland District Council’s Coun Roger Gambba-Jones was crying out for Network Rail to “show some respect”, claiming the state of the bridge area had “undoubtedly become far worse since the company had foisted their second hand cast-off bridge from Aylesbury upon Spalding”.
Last summer, the district council vowed not to pick up the bill when vandals scrawled more offensive slogans on the walls of the bridge in white paint, spilling some on the anti-slip surface.
The police sent out a plea for witnesses to catch the offenders, but Network Rail had another idea.
Schools in the area were invited to take part in Network Rail’s nationwide Tidy Routes campaign and come up with ideas for a specialist piece of artwork that would hopefully deter vandals and make the bridge more user-friendly.
Pupils at St Norbert’s School in Spalding jumped at the opportunity.
Mrs Jenna Withers, assistant headteacher, said: “We were first approached by Network Rail in July last year to take part in the competition and the project became part of the pupils’ art homework.
“The positive graffiti has made the bridge a positive centrepiece for the town and hopefully will prevent vandalism in the future.
”As a Catholic school, working in the global community is hugely important to us. We are so proud to have been part of this.”
Coun Gambba-Jones commented: “I am very pleased to see that Network Rail are continuing to respond positively, when alerted to the ongoing vandalism of this vital pedestrian link.
“I would however remind the company, that at least some of these costly problems, could well have been avoided, if they had taken note of our serious concerns when bridge replacement was proposed.
“As well as telling them that this bridge, with its solid sides, the length of the walkway, would become a blank canvas for the yobs and taggers that blight out town, we also asked them to look at the totally inadequate lighting of the bridge.
“Such poor lighting, combined with the enclosed top deck, means that graffiti vandals can go about their business without fear of being seen from the ground, or even from the stairways.
“Both these elements add to the forbidding nature of the bridge during the hours of darkness, with many pedestrians avoiding it once the sun goes down.”
A spokesperson for Network Rail said: “We would like to thank the children at St Norbert’s School and artist Pete Barber for coming up with this wonderful design for the Stepping Stones Bridge.
“Network Rail is working hard to improve the railway and how it impacts upon local communities. This bridge is now a work of art as well as an important, safe link over the railway.”