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Network Rail’s newt detectives

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The Great Crested Newt is a protected species that is often found in ponds, woodland or on grassland – and on railway construction sites.  Detecting the presence of these newts is therefore highly important if contractors are to obey the various laws that protect these animals.

To make that detection easier, Network Rail teams in Hitchin have used innovative methods – and two new recruits. Rocky and Arnie are the world’s first scientifically proven great crested newt detection dogs.

The dogs were trained for their careers following research and trials with Atkins, Wagtail UK and Natural England. As well as saving time and money, Rocky and Arnie can cover large areas much faster than workers on site and accurately detect any newts.

Steve Hughes, Network Rail.

After a good sniff on the railway and around the worksite, neither Rocky nor Arnie found any evidence of great crested newts, meaning the work can be carried out as planned.

Steve Hughes, programme director for Network Rail, said: “It’s amazing to see how quickly Rocky and Arnie managed to cover the worksite in Hitchin and check if there were any Great Crested Newts. This method will save valuable time and reduce delays to vital improvements to the railway.

“As we work to protect the environment and increase biodiversity near the railway, the detection dogs will help us protect Great Crested Newts, so they can then be moved to suitable habitats.”

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