As spring moves into summer, increased rates of growth and volumes of leaves can obstruct signals on the railway and pose a risk to the safe running of trains. Network Rail therefore has to remove any potentially dangerous trees and plants, prioritising areas that pose a significant risk.
In Scotland alone, with 2,600 miles of track and more than a half a million trees growing lineside across the railway network, managing lineside vegetation is both a full-time job and one of Network Rail’s most important safety issues.
As an example, between six and ten metres of vegetation will be cleared on both sides of the railway along the seven-mile section of track from Haymarket to Dalmeny. Network Rail’s teams will be working with adjacent landowners to make sure that trees next to the railway are not a danger whether they’re on railway land or not.
In advance of work beginning, the area has been carefully assessed and surveyed for nesting birds and protected species and the work has been planned to balance the need to protect the lineside biodiversity and to keep the railway running safely. Ongoing ecology surveys will occur as the work progresses and, if any protected species are identified, appropriate methods of working will be put in place.
Lineside neighbours, the council, local conservation groups and statutory bodies such as Scottish Natural Heritage will be kept informed, as appropriate, about this work.
Programme director at Network Rail Scotland Gary Hopkirk said about the work: “Vegetation management is an essential part of railway maintenance and this work is crucial to keeping both trains and passengers safe.
“From our surveys of the area covered, we have established what work is needed and the best way to go about it. Though the equipment we use can be noisy, we will work responsibly and make every effort to minimise the disruption for nearby residents.
“We are aware of the impact that removing trees and vegetation can have on local communities, but we can assure them that this work is necessary to reduce the risk of incidents and to help us promote a safe and efficient railway.”
While the majority of the work between Haymarket and Dalmeny will take place during daytime hours – Monday to Friday from mid-May until the end of August – some work will still need to take place at night when train services are not in operation, particularly on Saturday nights between 23:00 and 07:30 on Sunday morning.