Calls to halt work by rail line

A PRESERVATION group is calling on Network Rail to halt work on the tree felling and removal of scrub vegetation either side of a six-mile long stretch of line.

A PRESERVATION group is calling on Network Rail to halt work on the tree felling and removal of scrub vegetation either side of a six-mile long stretch of line.

The Suffolk Preservation Society (SPS) said it was concerned about the extent and severity of the work - expected to continue till the end of the month - and is adverse impact on the environment.

The Suffolk Wildlife Trust has also called on the company to consult it before similar work is carried out in the future.

Residents at Elmswell raised the alarm after Network Rail began clearing trees and bushes as part of a £100,000 programme it claimed was necessary to ensure safety and efficiency along the line between the village and Haughley.

The company said vegetation had to be cleared to enable drivers to see signals and to prevent "leaves on the line" problems causing train delays.

But the SPS said it had written to Network Rail calling for the work to be halted while a more sympathetic approach was agreed.

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Richard Ward, the society's director, said it was not against the company carrying out maintenance work on its land to safeguard the travelling public.

However, it appeared that a less drastic approach might have been justified and would have avoided the felling of oak trees.

"The problem of overhanging trees and vegetation is, after all, not new and the highway authority and electricity companies in Suffolk have dealt with a very similar problem over many years.

"They have not resorted to the wholesale removal of trees but have adopted the sympathetic management of any problem trees with the removal of the odd branch if necessary," Mr Ward said.

"The society is asking Network Rail to stop its current programme of tree and vegetation clearance on the line and to consider alternative approaches which meet with its needs on safety but also preserve the character of the line and this part of Suffolk.

"A more sympathetic maintenance programme would secure the support of the public and attract praise for the company's approach," he added.

Dorothy Casey, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust's conservation manager, said railway embankments were valuable to a range of wildlife including butterflies, songbirds and reptiles because they were usually undisturbed areas.

"While we understand the importance of keeping the railways safe and the need for selective tree felling, we feel blanket removal of trees and scrub to be a threat to wildlife," she added.

A Network Rail spokeswoman said the company would be pleased to discuss its maintenance programmes and environment policy with any organisation.

"We do liase with local authorities before we start work. We wrote on this occasion to the trees officer at Mid Suffolk District Council, David Mitchell, but I understand we heard nothing back" she said.

Mr Mitchell was not available for comment on whether or not he had been consulted.

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