Network Rail's vegetation problem

L&Y Robert

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I remember an article in, I think, Modern Railways some years ago which had the title "Plasma Torch Kills Low Adhesion Problems". What happened to all that? Was it really The Answer?
 
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Annetts key

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It used to be that the adjacent farmers would be subcontracted by the railway to maintain the fencing and landscaping at the railway boundary. Of course, they would just approach from their own land, and had the right sort of tools and plant for the job. Didn't cost much. Has that all been lost in the desire that everything has to be certificated nowadays?
Generally, you have to be a preferred contractor, or to work as a subcontractor to a preferred contractor. And of course with this comes all the associated paperwork…

And the days of the railways helping locals with peppercorn rents for otherwise useless land have disappeared as well. So why would adjacent farmers care nowadays?

Especially as the reason away from public roads, is for the railways to provide fences to keep animals from straying from railway land onto the farmers land.
 

Annetts key

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Would have thought it would be the other way round?!
Well, the concern from the landowners was/is either people straying from the railway onto the adjacent land, or animals straying from one area of adjacent land, along the railway and then onto another area of adjacent land.

So livestock looking for some nice food in a field of crops…

Or railway workers trespassing onto private land adjacent to the line.

Of course, livestock owners are not going to be best pleased if their prized animals can stray in front of a train either.

Remember, heavy steam locomotives were more resistant to animals than modern rolling stock.

Different rules apply where there are bridges, level crossings, public rights of way or at occupation/accommodation (private) crossings.
 
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option

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Are these tree surgeons qualified to be operating next to a live railway, after all as you say the trees that cause the problems are close to the running lines? Or are you proposing mass blockades all over the place forever?

Why does it need to be a live railway?
There are often long stretches of line closed for work, when the actual work site is only part of the stretch closed.
Or if there's been major works, keep it closed for another day so a big team can go in & do the work.
 

Moonshot

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It's worth pointing out ( if it hasn't already been mentioned) that Network Rails own standard states that there should be no vegetation within 3 metres of nearest running line, and that it should also be cut back at an angle of at least 45 degrees from that point. Clearly they are not compliant in a lot of areas
 

Wokingham

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All the bags of materials and bits of used equipment left lying around is what bothers me could they not invent some skip train to fill up on possessions
 

nlogax

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All the bags of materials and bits of used equipment left lying around is what bothers me could they not invent some skip train to fill up on possessions

It's the quantity and constant variety that surprises me. Old sections of rail, bulk bags, discarded grease and spray cans, old clips, sleeper pads, all enmeshed with the ever-sprouting vegetation. Watching certain cab ride videos I'm amazed by how bad certain areas look. Some of that stuff has obviously been there for years.
 

Annetts key

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It's the quantity and constant variety that surprises me. Old sections of rail, bulk bags, discarded grease and spray cans, old clips, sleeper pads, all enmeshed with the ever-sprouting vegetation. Watching certain cab ride videos I'm amazed by how bad certain areas look. Some of that stuff has obviously been there for years.
Multiple years, sometimes more than three…
 

Brush 4

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BBC South Today ran a good report on the reopening today, with specific mention of the leaf problem. Using a photo from steam days to show what Tunnel Junction looked like then, completely treeless. Good to put that aspect in the public eye, which NR haven't been clear on. Hopefully the report in a few months time will highlight the true cause of the accident.
 

Grumpy Git

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Everyone should be made to work for themselves for a couple of years in a job where you need materials. Waste would be cut by 99% overnight.

The amount of new discarded hardware alongside any line is shocking.
 

cats_five

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Everyone should be made to work for themselves for a couple of years in a job where you need materials. Waste would be cut by 99% overnight.

The amount of new discarded hardware alongside any line is shocking.

Not sure about that. Unless there is some value in items they will be discarded rather than money spent on removing them.
 

Brush 4

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That's an argument to not remove refuse, as it has no or little value. Money and how to avoid spending it is totally the wrong approach. Lineside management seems non existent these days, just to 'save' money.
 

73128

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That's an argument to not remove refuse, as it has no or little value. Money and how to avoid spending it is totally the wrong approach. Lineside management seems non existent these days, just to 'save' money.
unless it is large enough to possibly be put onto the track by vandals.....
 

InOban

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Old lengths of rail are left in large sections to make them too heavy for the trespassers to move.

There was a recent tweet from South of the river, forget which route, saying that they were taking advantage of the closure of the line to do a major cleanup, not just removal of rubbish but also graffiti etc.
 

geoffk

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Well, the concern from the landowners was/is either people straying from the railway onto the adjacent land, or animals straying from one area of adjacent land, along the railway and then onto another area of adjacent land.
or to prevent navvies building the line from stealing their crops and/or running off with their daughters (I was told by the legal adviser to a heritage railway)!
 

theageofthetra

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So despite the Hayes branch being shut for 12 days over Christmas no vegetation cut back at all. This is despite it being notorious for poor adhesion and suffered a number of track circuit failures due to railhead contamination last year.

Madness
 

Meerkat

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Only a guess but I doubt many house owners will willingly allow trees on their private garden to be felled.
I don't know....I reckon a lot of house owners would be quite happy for NR to pay for a big tree to be felled that will probably be blocking their sunlight out, filling their garden and gutters with leaves, wrecking their lawn/paving, and likely to need expensive work on it anyway.
It would more likely be pollarding anyway wouldnt it, to stop it being tall enough to fall on the line? That sounds and initially looks brutal, but does let loads more light in and soon gets back a bushy crown.
 

BrianW

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Forgive me if this has been covered upthread. I would imagine that a landowner must take responsibility for the 'actions' of trees on its land. It would be prudent for a landowner to carry appropriate insurances. Foreseeability may be factor in determining liability, and its extent. If Network Rail were to fell (or carry out work on) someone else's tree I would imagine it to have considered the liabilities it may then be having.
 

Meerkat

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Forgive me if this has been covered upthread. I would imagine that a landowner must take responsibility for the 'actions' of trees on its land. It would be prudent for a landowner to carry appropriate insurances. Foreseeability may be factor in determining liability, and its extent. If Network Rail were to fell (or carry out work on) someone else's tree I would imagine it to have considered the liabilities it may then be having.
AIUI you are only liable if the tree was clearly dangerous.
A tree fell on a friend’s car and he got told ‘tough, it’s an act of god’, unless he could prove there was something wrong with the tree and the owners’ failed to act.
 

507020

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I don't know....I reckon a lot of house owners would be quite happy for NR to pay for a big tree to be felled that will probably be blocking their sunlight out, filling their garden and gutters with leaves, wrecking their lawn/paving, and likely to need expensive work on it anyway.
It would more likely be pollarding anyway wouldnt it, to stop it being tall enough to fall on the line? That sounds and initially looks brutal, but does let loads more light in and soon gets back a bushy crown.
Behind my house and those of the neighbours either side, there was a row of sycamore trees much taller than the houses (the houses having been built on land divided up from a much larger Victorian garden) which were well under 3 metres away from the running line, let alone the Network Rail boundary (although no one is exactly sure where that is, my assumption is that it is denoted by a low stone wall probably as old as the railway which is hidden behind a fence) and there was as you put it “something wrong with them” in that they were effectively dead so far up and equally likely to fall on and destroy a train full of passengers on the railway or one of the houses. One by one over a period of years, all of the trees were cut down having been causing all of the above to our property, however Network Rail did not contribute a penny despite the improvement to the safety of the railway, the reduction to the amount of work carried out by their RHTT and the money saved by them of not having to repair damage to their infrastructure caused by a fallen tree. I suspect if one of the trees had fallen that way it would have been tall enough to hit the house on the other side of the railway.
 

snowball

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Press release from a few days ago:


Network Rail will shortly begin work to remove trees and vegetation on the West Highland Line between Craigendoran and Helensburgh Upper as part of a new trial project to improve lineside biodiversity.

When the felling and removal of trees is complete, the area will be replanted with native trees and shrubs including Holly, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Rowan, Hazel and Elder.

The replanting will benefit the surrounding wildlife and is part of a trial approach which, if successful, will help Network Rail work towards targets which will see no net-loss of biodiversity by 2024 with an overall net-gain by 2035.

As well as replanting, habitat piles will be created throughout the site to enhance the already present natural features and bat and bird boxes will be installed throughout the site.

As a first step, from January 24 for approximately 10 weeks, all woody vegetation within a minimum of four-metres of the track will be cleared, then any trees that could strike the line if they fell will be pruned or cut-down to remove the risk to the railway.

Cutting of trees and vegetation across this 1.5-mile section of railway is needed to help keep passengers safe and improve performance by reducing the impact of leaf-fall.

Unmanaged vegetation can pose a serious risk to rail safety as trees can fall onto the line during bad weather or, when overgrown, branches and foliage can obscure signals from a driver’s view.

Ahead of work, surveys have been carried out for breeding birds and other protected species as well as to identify a number of trees to be retained for biodiversity reasons, such as those with bat roost potential.
 

hwl

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Press release from a few days ago:



A good press release from NR at last.

"Holly, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Rowan, Hazel and Elder"
  • Small
  • Non problematic root structures
  • minimal water consumption so minimal seasonality issues due to trees
 

Brush 4

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Those recent real time journey TV programmes on the West Highland line, illustrated just how many fine views were lost behing tree walls. Hopefully, this will sort that out. Needs doing all over the network.
 

InOban

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For several years the Friends were a conduit for money from the National Park to NR to clear some sections, that was before NR took vegetation seriously. There's a great section on the descent towards Dalmally which has become visible because the trees have been harvested, enjoy it before it disappears behind the next crop.
 

Bikeman78

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AIUI you are only liable if the tree was clearly dangerous.
A tree fell on a friend’s car and he got told ‘tough, it’s an act of god’, unless he could prove there was something wrong with the tree and the owners’ failed to act.
Unless a tree is clearly dead or dying, it's impossible to tell which will fall and which will not. In the famous storm of October 1987, my parents' garden was full of trees. Only one apple tree fell over, ironically one of the smallest. The massive sycamores, conifers and birches stood firm. Most are still there now. Meanwhile the similar conifer tree next day fell over and crushed a Transit van. The battered old slate roof on our house was fine whilst others were stripped down to the beams. A lot of it is down to luck.
 

physics34

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Those recent real time journey TV programmes on the West Highland line, illustrated just how many fine views were lost behing tree walls. Hopefully, this will sort that out. Needs doing all over the network.
I can confirm after a recent trip to Oban and Mallaig that trees do obscure some part of the route that are stunning. Such a shame
 

Brush 4

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Reply from NR re. bushes and vegetation invasion. They have paraphrased my question.

Subject​

Why is there little cutting back of bushes in brickwork on stations, bridges, viaducts and retaining walls? Is it a policy of letting them become dangerous so that demolition is required? Northwich station partly collapsed due to neglect?

Good Afternoon,

We appreciate you getting in touch with us about the overgrown bushes at our stations and viaducts.

I have looked into some answers for you about how often the overgrowth is removed and the team have got back to me with the following information:

It depends on whether it is:
• causing a danger to the track and trains travelling along it are hitting branches, or at risk of branches falling onto the running track
• preventing our examiners from properly doing examinations
• perceived to be causing damage to the structures
• could fall onto persons or property below

If it is a matter that it just looks untidy and overgrown, we haven’t got the resources to regularly clear bridges as thoroughly as we might once have. From time to time money is found to do this type of work but in the current financial climate it is unlikely that we will be able to do so.

Network Rail prides itself in keeping environmental disruption to a minimum and so these requirements also help us stick to our policy in terms of disturbing natural environments.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please visit www.networkrail.co.uk or telephone our 24-Hour National Helpline on 03457 11 41 41.

I hope the above has answered any questions you have.

Thanks again for getting in touch,

Kind Regards
 

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