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DfT urges Network Rail to protect rail side environment

Words: Laura Edgar
Rail side vegetation / iStock-945106918

The Department for Transport (DfT) has set out how it expects Network Rail to protect and enhance the environment at the rail side.

The strategy has been drawn up in collaboration with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which has a 25-year environment plan.

It challenges Network Rail to achieve no net loss in biodiversity across the network by 2024. Additionally, the organisation should target a net gain in biodiversity by 2040 as well as produce a vision statement and biodiversity action by December this year setting out how these goals will be met.

The targets build on work Network Rail is already doing to make sure vegetation doesn’t delay journeys.

Rail minister Andrew Jones said: “As we strive for a cleaner, greener railway, we must also work hard to enrich our unique biodiversity. The good work Network Rail is already doing ensures that we strike a balance between effective management, protecting passengers and reducing delays.

“We must now go further and ensure we leave a legacy of a greener, vibrant and more diverse railway.”

Environment secretary Michael Gove explained that the strategy sets out clearly how Network Rail should manage and maintain trackside trees and hopes it will be the catalyst for a greener and more environmentally ambitious transport policy across the country.

“Trees are not only a source of beauty and wonder, but are also carbon sinks, a way to manage flood risk and a habitat for precious species – this is why we are so intent on ensuring the right balance is struck by all those who manage these vital natural assets.”

The strategy has been published following recommendations to protect and increase biodiversity made by an independently chaired review led by John Varley, a non-executive director of the Environment Agency. Valuing Nature – a railway for People and Wildlife was commissioned by the department in May 2018 to look at Network Rail’s line side vegetation management.

Varley said: “I’m impressed with how much Network Rail and government have achieved in the last seven months. There is a now a clear policy, a vision and a commitment to protect and enhance biodiversity, while continuing to keep safety centre stage. Whilst I do not underestimate the challenge in delivering my recommendations over the coming months and years, the leadership, commitment and progress I have witnessed, gives me much confidence.”

Image credit | iStock