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Network Rail tree felling review chairman announced

Network rail clearing trees and vegetation next to line 3to2

Land management expert John Varley will lead a review into Network Rail tree felling.

The review will consider the rationale, evidence base and effectiveness of Network Rail’s existing policy, and how environmental considerations are taken into account.

Clinton Devon Estates chief executive Varley will investigate alternative policies and whether Network Rail, and the supply chain, has the capacity and capability to enhance wildlife as part of its vegetation management practices.

It comes after the rail operator came under fire for an £800M programme to fell as many as 10M rail-side trees growing within 60m of the track.

Network Rail hit back at the claim, originally made in the Guardian, and said its lineside policy had not changed since 2004 and it would not change in Control Period 6, which starts next year.

Launching the report in May rail minister Jo Johnson said: “How we manage our trees and vegetation – and protect the wildlife that lives in and around them - is an important issue.

“It is right that Network Rail are able to remove trees that could be dangerous, or impact on the reliability of services. In the last year, vegetation management and related incidents have cost the railway £100 million.

“But I also understand that cutting back trees can alarm people who enjoy these environments – and can especially raise concerns over the effect on birds during nesting season.

“That is why I am commissioning this review. In the meantime, I have asked Network Rail to suspend all felling during the current nesting season, except where it is safety critical.”

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