By Marcus Leach
Londoners need to be better informed when rail companies plan works to manage trackside vegetation, such as cutting trees to prevent leaves on the line, a new report from the London Assembly says today (Tuesday).
Land alongside the 450 miles of train tracks in London can improve the appearance of the capital, provide privacy and is seen by residents as a barrier to the noise and dust of passing trains. It is also an ecological asset — London Underground’s trackside land alone amounts to 10 per cent of all green spaces in the capital and provides a home to wildlife such as kestrels, orange-tip butterflies, great spotted woodpeckers and bats.
However it does need to be carefully managed through pruning or felling trees, reducing and clearing vegetation as well as carrying out earthworks, so trains can operate safely and efficiently.
A report by Darren Johnson AM on behalf of the Assembly’s Environment Committee says Network Rail and Transport for London, which are mainly responsible for trackside land in the capital, have good policies in place for managing trackside vegetation.
But residents and local boroughs can feel inadequately informed about the scale and details of the works, with some telling the Committee that work was excessive or drastic, especially when mature trees were removed.
The report therefore recommends the two companies should:
- communicate more specific detail about maintenance work to local residents
- work more closely with the London Biodiversity Partnership.
It also suggests Network Rail should follow TfL’s lead and use a London database of environmental information when planning future works.
“Trackside vegetation shields thousands of Londoners living alongside railway tracks from disturbance and is home to all kinds of animals, plants and birds," Darren Johnson said.
“We all agree that railways must operate efficiently and safely, but at the same time, vegetation and the species living there need protection because of their environmental and aesthetic benefits.
“Network Rail and Transport for London should focus more on treating this land as an asset, not a liability. Although they have good policies in place, they should better inform local residents about planned works and why they are needed.
”The two companies could also work more closely with other organisations in the capital to fully consider the environmental value of sites before works are carried out.”
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