• Keeping the trackside safe from pests and overgrown vegetation

    We do everything in our power to protect the railway from plants, trees and animals while maintaining natural habitats

  • We have over 30,000 hectares of lineside vegetation along 20,000 miles of the track. We need to manage this natural resource at all times of the year while keeping it safe from potential hazards.

    Trees, plants and leaves

    Trees and plants can cover up signals, fall on to the tracks or overhead power lines and stop workers from getting to safety when trains are passing. Autumn leaves on the tracks are hazardous for trains and can cause damage as well as delays.

    With over 30,000 hectares of lineside vegetation along 20,000 miles of the track, we focus our resources to keep the railway safe and running. This includes keeping the area between the track rails completely clear and removing any lineside vegetation situated on our land that poses a threat to the safe running of the railway or our operations. In addition to cutting down trees that are too close to the track we also have 54 leaf-busting trains to keep the tracks clear of leaf mulch that causes delays.

    As an environmentally responsible company, the removal of lineside vegetation is a last resort for us and we only remove vegetation that is a potential hazard to the railway or surrounding property. As such, requests from our lineside neighbours to remove vegetation from our property results in a site inspection from a trained professional to see what, if any, action is necessary. If the vegetation is not causing a safety risk, as is the case for issues such as light or television reception, we are unlikely to remove the vegetation.

    We tend to work on plants and trees during the day between Monday and Friday, but sometimes we have to work at nights or weekends when trains are not running to make sure that our people are safe. We always discuss our plans in advance with local authorities and, where possible, with our neighbours.


    Japanese Knotweed and common ragwort are invasive weeds, and giant hogweed produces toxins that can be harmful when brought in to contact with skin.

    We work hard to control these weeds on our land and dispose of the waste responsibly so that we do not accidentally spread weeds to new places.

    Animal pests

    Rats, mice and rabbits can cross over from our neighbours’ properties onto the railway.

    When this happens, we’ll send someone to investigate the problem and take the right action.

    Pigeons often nest under the bridges along the railway and can cause problems for people living and working nearby. If you’ve got a problem with nesting pigeons you need to contact your local authority first. 

    Habitats and protected species

    Each day that we clear vegetation, we check to see if any nesting birds or protected species are present. If there are, then we work around them or plan our works outside of nesting season so as not to disturb or disrupt wildlife.

    We also encourage the growth of the trees and shrubs that provide the best habitat for native animals and protected species.

    Need more information?

    If you want to know more about how we keep the railway safe from vegetation and animal pests, or have a comment about any of these issues you can get in touch with us