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World Environment Day: working with plants and animals on the railway

Did you know the railway has lots of jobs involving the environment, ecology and biodiversity?

Network Rail is one of Britain’s biggest landowners so we have an important responsibility to look after the wildlife on and around the railway.

Find out from Caitlin and Octavia what it’s like to work with the environment at Network Rail – and why the railway is “a treasure trove of plants and animals”.

Caitlin McCann, ecologist for Infrastructure Projects signalling, Southern region

“I ensure that our work on our railways considers all habitats, plants and wildlife. Network Rail has to maintain the railways so everyone can get to work without forgetting that the railway is where some of our most beloved species live!

“I love that ecological issues are coming into centre focus within Network Rail and that I get to talk to people about newts, bats, and badger – some of my personal favourite animals.

Keeping bats safe around the railway

“I love arranging volunteering days with local charities such as the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, National Trust, and local wildlife trusts. I love teaching my colleagues about UK biodiversity and doing my best to make sure we leave the railway in a better manner than which we found it.

“I wanted to be a marine biologist growing up. I was born in Boston and wanted to study the great white sharks that often dominated our swimming beaches! So I travelled to Northern Ireland (where my dad went to university) and studied marine biology. I ended up studying technology used to track leatherback turtles, a critically endangered marine turtle.

“I moved to Wales to study at Swansea University and continue my turtle obsession, but the sand dunes and habitats of Gower Peninsula captivated me and I changed my course of study to UK reptiles and amphibians. I eventually got a job as an ecologist and I have never looked back!”

Octavia Midgley, head of safety and sustainable development, Capital Delivery, Eastern Region, Network Rail

Octavia Midgley

“I manage a team of safety and sustainability specialists working across the new Eastern Region, making sure we deliver industry leading projects in a safe and sustainable way.

“I love the variety of my job, strategy planning, problem solving and engaging with people. I also love that every day I feel I make a positive difference through my work.

“I have worked on a huge range of projects across Network Rail, from signalling projects to Crossrail and Great West Electrification and most recently the Transpennine route upgrade.

“A good project I worked on while in signalling saw us convert an old relay room by the railway into a bat house using materials recycled from a demolished signal box, we had bats move in within the year! A first for the railway. 

“I have also been lucky in building a fantastic sustainability team on TransPennine route upgrade (a major programme improving capacity on the rail line between York and Manchester) to ensure we leave a positive legacy from both an environmental side and also a social value side.

“I always wanted to work with animals and I really enjoyed geography and biology at school. After leaving school I decided to do a degree in zoology and then an MSc in ecology and environment management and during that time volunteered on a range of conservation projects in the UK and oversees.

“After my degree I became an ecologist, working on a range of construction projects, providing specialist advice on how to protect plants and animals in the project area, and eventually I ended up on the railway, which is a treasure trove of plants and animals!”

The railway is surrounded by biodiversity

Read more:

International Women’s Day – Q&A with Michelle Chrabalowski, environment specialist

Managing habitats by the railway

Five times we’ve helped wildlife around the railway

How we moved a river: re-routing a waterway and protecting the environment

Pioneering trial for solar-powered trains

Five positive impacts of the railway

Graduate schemes


Summer placements

Year in industry placements

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