Tue, 05 Jun 2018
NETWORK Rail has been criticized for felling trees along large stretches of West Berkshire’s railway line.
Residents living near the railway track in Newbury and Hungerford have expressed their anger after the company's operators began the work on Saturday, June 2.
The workers are said to have cleared vegetation all through the night with chainsaws and heavy machinery.
It is the first of four clearing phases set for this summer, with work continuing until August.
Network Rail recently wrote to West Berkshire residents living near the track, notifying them of a “controlled programme of tree and vegetation management” on the railway line from Newbury to Patney in Wiltshire.
The operation, it said, would involve stripping or removing trees and vegetation eight metres from the railway track or to the boundary fence.
It is allegedly part of Network Rail's plans to target all “leaf fall” trees for removal alongside its tracks in a new £800m five-year programme of "enhanced clearance", as reported in one national newspaper last month.
But numerous individuals have contacted the NWN to express their anger over the felling and concern for local wildlife – amid the middle of the bird nesting season.
One resident said he could see houses on the other side of the railway line for the first time in the 18 years he has lived at the property in Bone Mill Lane, Newbury.
In its letter to residents, Network Rail cited an incident in which a branch crashed through a train driver’s cab window along the line.
It read: “The safety of the general public, travelling passengers and our staff is our number one priority.”
The infrastructure giant also reassured residents that ecological surveys would be carried out prior to the scheduled work commencing – but did not stipulate what these surveys were.
Another Newbury resident in Westgate Road, Richard McLellan, criticised the rail operator for the “minimal” information it had provided to residents and said the felling had a detrimental effect on scenery surrounding his house.
He said: “We have lost beautiful trees which provided privacy and noise reduction – we had lovely scenery before.
“Now there are houses which can see right into my garden. It has been very distressing for me and my wife.”
The NWN have contacted Network Rail for a response.