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Network Rail under fire for ‘secret’ tree felling

Tree tracks

Network Rail has come under fire for planning to fell rail-side trees across the country.

The Guardian reported that as many as 10M poplars, sycamores, limes, ash trees and horse chestnuts are in danger under Network Rail’s scheme.

According to the Guardian, Network Rail has been using drones to identify “hotspots” where mature trees may cause a problem in the future.

Within the blueprint, trees growing within 60m of the track have been identified from Yorkshire to Dorset to be axed over the coming months.

As the felling has already begun in places, environmentalists have complained at the timing because it is taking place during nesting season.

Co-leader of the Green party Caroline Lucas said the scale of the operation was shocking and an act of environmental vandalism.

“While some tree work is required on safety grounds,” she said, “Network Rail’s approach tends to be one of slash and burn. To be taking action in the nesting season is even more reckless.”

Meanwhile a RSPB spokesperson said: “The worry is that much of this work is … non-urgent work that is simply being carried out with little regard to the presence of birds and other animals.”

Network Rail has defended the “necessary” felling, claiming that the felling will reduce leaves and debris falling on the tracks and thus improving journey times.

The company said the average tree had between 10 and 50,000 leaves, any or all of which could fall on the line.

A Network Rail spokesperson added that the works adhere to “environmental requirements” and checks for nesting birds.

He added: “Managing vegetation is vital to running a safe and punctual railway. Getting everyone home safe every day is our top priority.” 

In March, plans to remove 17,500 trees as part of a highways upgrade in Sheffield were shelved following criticism.

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