Vegetation management

Our work clearing vegetation by the railway helps to keep trains running safely and on time

Managing the trees, shrubs and plants alongside our railway to ensure the safety of passengers and railway workers is essential, and it’s something we plan carefully and with consideration.

How we manage vegetation to prepare for electrifying a railway line


We receive many enquiries about our vegetation work and know that the decisions we take are important, especially for our lineside neighbours – anyone who lives, or runs a business, within 500 metres of the railway.

More than 10 million trees growing next to the railway have been catalogued as part of a sophisticated aerial survey covering 20,000 miles of Britain’s track. The database provides engineers with a heat map indicating higher priority “problem trees” or overhanging tree canopies that need attention before they fall onto the railway and cause delays to train journeys. It will revolutionise the way lineside engineers target their work, and save the company time and money.

We understand that cutting back vegetation can be unsettling for those who live nearby and have grown used to the trees or hedges in the local area.

That’s why our vegetation management process involves a lot of planning and thought. Our approach can be different across each of our nine routes, as we work to address the unique local geographic and natural considerations, but wherever we are, our focus is the best way of cultivating a respectful balance between Britain’s lineside biodiversity and ensuring a safe, efficient railway.

What is vegetation management?

Vegetation management is a coordinated effort between different professionals within our teams: maintenance teams regularly cut back plants that are growing too close to the trains, whereas teams including specialist tree workers will carry out larger scale felling work.

You can read a detailed description of vegetation management here

Careful planning

Our programme of management is planned well before work begins on site – sometimes years in advance – for the least disruption to lineside neighbours and wildlife.

Tree planting and preservation

Varley Review

On 28 November 2018, the DfT published the findings of the Varley Review of Network Rail’s approach to vegetation management in England and Wales.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “I welcome the Varley Review, in particular the opportunity it gives Network Rail to develop an ambitious vision for increasing biodiversity on the railway.  Over the next six months we will develop a costed plan to deliver the aims and recommendations of this report. We will also improve the way we operate to better protect nesting birds, ready for next year’s breeding season.

Read the Varley review

Glyphosate herbicides