THE removal of a vintage steam locomotive from Newport’s riverfront might not seem like a big deal.
Indeed, there were raised eyebrows aplenty in the Argus newsroom when I insisted news of the Forester engine’s disappearing act should be on the front page.
But there is more to this story than meets the eye.
Taking the locomotive from its home on the Uskside to the vintage railway in Blaenavon sends out a message that worries me. And I think it should concern us all.
The engine and its coal truck had been sited at the old Blaenavon Wharf for almost 20 years.
Restored by British Steel after active service in the steelworks at Ebbw Vale, it stood as both a piece of public art for the modern world and a reminder of the old age of coal and steel, the heavy industries that fuelled Newport’s economy for decades.
My kids played on the engine when they were little. I’m sure such memories are shared by many parents in the city.
Yet it was gone within a few hours early last Sunday morning.
Why? Because the cost of repairing the locomotive after persistent vandalism had become too great for Newport council to bear.
In other words, the council did not think it right to continue spending money (that’s your money, by the way) on the engine.
On the surface, it seems like a sensible decision.
But what message does it actually send out?
In my view, moving the Forester is tantamount to giving in to the vandals.
Instead of finding ways to protect a well-loved piece of public art, the council took the easy way out.
Instead of tackling the yobs who caused the damage, the council simply took away the thing they were vandalising.
That is no solution to vandalism.
It simply moves the problem somewhere else.
What next? If the Wave gets vandalised does it get torn down? If the brain-dead start chucking bricks through the windows of the Riverfront theatre does it get shut down?
Well, that’s what would happen if you apply the same logic used to decide the locomotive’s fate.
The engine should have stayed where it was and the vandals should have been caught and dealt with. That, I suspect, is what most people would have preferred to happen.
I’d rather have more of my council tax spent on CCTV or more community policing than lose iconic parts of the Newport landscape.
Like I said, the removal of the locomotive from the riverfront might not seem like a big deal.
But it sends a clear message to those who offer no contribution to society, to those who only want to damage and destroy.
And that message is: You’ve won.
Beeb has much to be proud of
AS THE BBC is engulfed with the twin scandals of Savile and Newsnight, it was good to take a few minutes to reflect on the corporation’s true worth as it celebrated its 90th birthday.
Marked by a simultaneous broadcast across more than 55 BBC radio stations worldwide, the anniversary was of an organisation that is known, loved and respected across the globe.
It has its problems at the moment but the world would be a poorer place today without the influence the Beeb has had over the last nine decades.