Dr Nick Atkinson, senior conservation advisor for the trust, says the rail company must be held to account for the way it manages the millions of trees along its routes and that concerns had been raised by the public about how many were being felled.
“We need the public to raise their voice,” he said. “By explaining how they want lineside trees cared for in the public survey, we hope that we can influence Network Rail’s plans moving forward. We understand there are concerns for public safety, but trees are important and deserve to be managed carefully – not cut down in their thousands for no good reason.”
There are 13 million trees within falling distance of their railways, according to Network Rail. The Guardian recently highlighted a Network Rail policy option which proposed a five-year “enhanced clearance” programme to fell all leaf fall species within falling distance of the tracks, but the company says it has not adopted this as policy, that it cuts down around 1000 trees a week, and that it has no plans to change this.
The Government set up a review of the scale of tree felling by Network Railafter the Guardian’s report and the Woodland Trust is encouraging members of the public to give their views to the review team by 14 September.
Currently Network Rail had no biodiversity targets – unlike, for example, the Highways Agency. Atkinson said: “Network Rail should be required to have a biodiversity action plan that includes measures relating to maintaining and enhancing the wildlife value of their estate’s trees and woodland. Their performance should in turn be monitored by the Office of Rail and Road.”
Network Rail said: “We continue to engage fully with the government’s review. We see this review as an opportunity to explore how we can better apply our own examples of good practice across the country and find new and improved ways of managing our lineside environment while ensuring the continued safe and reliable operation of the railway.”