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More tree felling along railway line

Critics previously described the result as “utter devastation”

NETWORK Rail has undertaken more controversial “vegetation management” – or tree felling – on the railway line from Hungerford to Marlborough, Wiltshire.

When the company first undertook similar work last summer, critics described the result as “utter devastation”.

Residents living near the railway track in Hungerford expressed anger after operators began the work last June using chainsaws and heavy machinery.

The felling action was triggered in part by an incident near Hungerford on New Year’s Eve in 2017, 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.

This latest round of tree removal along the track is part of an £800m, nationwide five-year programme.

Last year Hungerford Town Council’s highways and transport committee, acting on complaints from residents that nesting birds’ habitat was being decimated, wrote to the rail giant recommending that cutting not take place between March and August.

Network Rail refused, citing passenger safety as priority.

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.”

The work was due to be completed on Sunday.

Network Rail said in a statement: “The vegetation clearance will involve stripping or removing trees and vegetation 8m from the outer running rail or to the boundary fence, whichever is the lesser.

“This programme will include investigating any vegetation growing on third party land that poses a risk to the railway. In this situation, we will contact the relevant landowner to discuss this with them directly.”

The statement added: “We recognise that work on the railway can be disruptive to those living or working nearby.

“The nature of our work often means some disturbance is unavoidable, but we will make every effort is made to minimise any unnecessary noise and we have reminded all staff to be considerate of our neighbours.”

For more information call Network Rail’s 24-hour helpline on 03457 11 41 41 or email crwest@networkrail.co.uk

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