Skip to content

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

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

We receive many enquiries about our vegetation work and know that the decisions we take are important, especially for 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 undertaking vegetation work 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 14 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 undertake work on vegetation growing too close to the trains and railway, whereas teams including specialist tree workers will carry out tree management at a larger scale where trees have been identified as posing a safety risk.

Careful planning

Our programme of management is planned well before work begins on site – sometimes years in advance – for the least disruption to people who live near the railway and wildlife.

The sustainable management of our land is important to us and our aims for the management of lineside vegetation is to keep our passengers safe and punctual, protect our neighbours from harm and  promote best possible outcomes for our lineside habitats and their biodiversity.

Varley Review

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

We welcome this review and the opportunity it gives us to develop an ambitious vision for increasing biodiversity on the railway. We are committed to addressing all of the Review’s recommendations at the same time as delivering a safe and reliable railway that puts passengers first.

In line with the Review’s recommendations, we are developing the standards that will see vegetation on our lineside estate managed as an asset. This will see the business make better use of environmental data to improve net biodiversity on the railway and contribute to the Government’s targets on habitat and woodland creation.

We recognise the importance of the Review’s recommendations around communicating with people who live near the railway, particularly in instances where vegetation management works are taking place. A new suite of communication materials has been developed in partnership with the Tree Council to ensure that our neighbours are better informed about the work taking place near their homes.

Glyphosate herbicides – frequently asked questions

Related pages

Together we can end domestic abuse