Our commitment to helping biodiversity

We’ve just planted thousands of trees and published our Biodiversity Action Plan as we underscore our commitment to helping the environment around the railway.

We’ve joined forces with national conservation charity The Tree Council to plant more than 80,000 trees and hedgerows across the country this winter. It’s part of a four-year, £1m tree planting pledge.

Local planting schemes, funded by us and managed by The Tree Council, are taking place in communities from the Wirral to Worcester, and in areas from ancient woodlands to city parks. The first 20,000 trees will be in the ground by Christmas, with another 60,000 planted by the end of March 2021, and tens of thousands more to follow over the lifetime of the pledge.

The £1m pledge was announced at the end of last year to give local people the money, materials and guidance to plant and look after thousands of trees within their communities. We and The Tree Council worked with community groups, parish councils, schools and others to identify locations and get everything in place for the winter planting season.

For this first year of the project the schemes are all on community land, so not alongside the railway. We have more than six million trees by the tracks, and we need to manage a very small percentage each year to keep you and trains safe.

The community planting schemes are part of our wider commitment to biodiversity, as set out in the Biodiversity Action Plan, published on 3 December.

Andrew Haines (centre) plants trees with Andrew Shaxton, parish council chair, and Sara Lom, chief executive of The Tree Council
Andrew Haines (centre) plants trees with Andrew Shaxton, parish council chair, and Sara Lom, chief executive of The Tree Council

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “We’re absolutely committed to making a real difference to our environment – decarbonising trains, using greener forms of energy, reducing waste, helping our passengers make greener choices – and planting more trees is a huge part of that.

“Everyone knows that leaves on the line – the railway equivalent of black ice on the roads – can be a real problem, but by working hand-in-hand with experts like The Tree Council and with local communities we can strike the right balance between the safe and reliable running of the railway and the protection and enhancement of the environment.

“More than 80,000 trees in the ground by the end of this planting season is a massive achievement and a reason to celebrate but I’m determined this is only the beginning. We can achieve even more in the future.”

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said: “This is a ground-breaking project to create and improve woodlands around the country. Last month the Government presented its ‘ten point plan’ for a green industrial revolution and Network Rail’s tree planting scheme is a major early step towards making a key industry, rail, even greener.”

Biodiversity Action Plan

Rail is already one of the greenest ways to travel but we’re committed to making it even greener. Sustainability is important to our passengers and it’s important to us. It’s an integral part of putting passengers first and making sure our railway is resilient, efficient and provides a great service in years to come.

Our Biodiversity Action Plan is about land by the railway that’s managed sustainably for safety, performance, the environment, our customers and our neighbours who live by the railway.

It outlines our ambitions for our biodiversity assets, and how we intend to protect, manage and enhance their condition over the current five-year Network Rail funding cycle and beyond. This will require us to develop new skills and competencies in ecology and vegetation management, and apply these to decision-making at all levels of our organisation.

It will also involve forming and maintaining partnerships with our stakeholders and neighbours to maximise the benefits a well-managed transport infrastructure can bring for biodiversity. It commits us to the key goal of no net loss in biodiversity on our lineside estate by 2024, moving to biodiversity net gain by 2035.

We will create appropriate habitats elsewhere on, or beyond, our estate to offset any impacts where it is not safe or practical to mitigate biodiversity loss associated with management actions.

Watch this film to find out about one of our best sites for biodiversity near the railway, at Folkestone Warren:

Read more: