Mon, 02 Jul 2018
NETWORK Rail has vowed to press ahead with its controversial tree cutting campaign along the Hungerford trackside during bird nesting season.
The rail giant made the declaration in a response to Hungerford Town Council’s highways and transport committee.
The felling action was triggered in part by an incident near Hungerford on New Year’s Eve last year, when a tree trunk pierced the reinforced glass window of the train driver’s cab.
No one was hurt, but Network Rail described it as a “close shave”, following which the cab had to be written off.
Network Rail is targetting all ‘leaf fall’ trees for removal alongside its tracks in an £800m, nationwide five-year programme.
That prompted one Hungerford woman, Emma Trafford, to raise awareness and to urge fellow citizens to do the same.
The town council duly received correspondence from residents about the issue and wrote, in turn, to Network Rail to demand an explanation.
At a recent meeting of the council’s highways and transport committee, chairman Rob Brookman said: “We received a number of complaints about this issue, recommending that cutting doesn’t take place between March and August when it’s known that birds are nesting in the area.
“We wrote to Network Rail, but the response was as I expected – that this is considered a safety issue which overrules everything.”
In her letter to the Newbury Weekly News, Ms Trafford said: “I would like to understand how, when working overnight in the dark, they ensure they are complying with the Countryside Act 1981 and not disturbing any nesting birds in the nesting season.”
She said the work was continuing despite a request from rail minister Jo Johnson asking Network Rail to suspend all non-safety-critical tree felling following alarm over the impact it could have on wildlife.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, it is an offence to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built.
However there are exceptions, and one of them states: “A person may kill or injure a wild bird... if they can show, subject to a number of specific conditions, that their action was necessary to preserve public health or air safety.”