Network Rail has announced that tree cutting work on the line between Glasgow and East Kilbride / Barrhead, paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will now resume.
Work was paused in March in order to protect the welfare of our staff, contractors and the wider public in line with Scottish Government guidance and we are continuing to follow this advice to allow us to safely resume activity.
The welfare of our passengers, the public, contractors and our staff remains our priority and work will now take place with physical distancing measures in place where possible, using additional protective equipment when not and finding new ways of working to ensure that vegetation can be cleared safely.
The work had been stopped in September 2019 in response to concerns raised by some lineside communities around the scope of the vegetation clearance. Network Rail listened to this feedback and revisited its approach to look at ways in which it can safely retain some trees beyond six metres from the railway.
The ultimate aim is to deliver and maintain a safe and efficient railway and removal of large trees from the lineside is important for rail safety.
Clearing the trees and vegetation along the 11-mile railway corridor is now underway and will be ongoing until December. It will enable site and geological investigation (SI/GI) which will inform the development of proposals to enhance the railway.
As well as vegetation clearance, this work will include a general tidy up and will address any issues with fencing uncovered as the vegetation is cleared. It will be delivered in a combination of both day and night-time working, including at weekends.
Ahead of work starting, Network Rail has undertaken all necessary environmental and ecological surveys to identify any protected species or nesting birds in the area, with additional measures implemented as we are in bird nesting season. Where any species have been identified, appropriate methods of working are put in place to safeguard species, roosts and habitats of value.
The equipment which will be used to clear the vegetation will include chainsaws, and chipping machines as well as ‘on track’ plant and machinery.
Katie Vollbracht, Network Rail’s senior sponsor for the programme, said; “While maintenance teams have been working every night throughout the lockdown to keep the railway open and running efficiently for key workers and essential journeys, we have been advised that it is now the right time to resume work on projects which will enhance the railway.
“Consequently we are now able to resume vegetation clearance activities on both the East Kilbride and Barrhead lines.
“Working on the railway always presents a logistical challenge in normal times but we now have the additional element of ensuring physical distancing, where possible. To do this we are following best advice, using additional protective equipment and learning new ways of working that will help keep everyone safe and let us get the job done.
“We fully understand the concerns of lineside communities but as previously stated, we will work to minimise the removal of trees, proactively identify any safeguarded species, roosts and habitats of value and look at ways we can safely retain trees out-with a six-metre corridor.
“While we will do what we can to minimise any disturbance from the vegetation management, we understand that this work will be noisy at times and apologise for any inconvenience.”
People can ask any questions or raise any concerns by contacting Network Rail on 03457 11 41 41.