Anger at railway line tree clearance

VILLAGERS have spoken of their dismay after Network Rail begun clearing trees and vegetation along six miles of railway line to stop leaves on the line and to clear obscured signals.

VILLAGERS have spoken of their dismay after Network Rail begun clearing trees and vegetation along six miles of railway line to stop leaves on the line and to clear obscured signals.

But the company, which is responsible for the railway's infrastructure, said it is spending £100,000 clearing and managing vegetation to ensure safety and performance on the line.

Network Rail is undertaking the work along the line between Haughley and Elmswell, near Stowmarket, and said it is needed to stop signals being obscured and to prevent leaves on the line.

David Barker, Elmswell Parish Council chairman, said the company has a duty to balance safety with environmental concerns.


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Peter Dow, clerk to Elmswell Parish Council, said: "The phone has been alive with this and I have every sympathy with people.

"Sure, some broad-leafed leaves could be a problem with the juice and resulting lack of friction, but not all trees cause these problems. There must have been a myriad of wildlife living there, that's the sad thing."

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David Sixsmith, of Elmswell, who walks his dog near the line, said: "The railway company must think we are country bumpkins who are not going to be worried. They have cut everything, beautiful oak trees a metre in diameter have been cut down.

"This is the 21st century, we can get beyond the moon, but our trains these days do not cope with a few leaves."

A spokeswoman for Network Rail said: "We are clearing vegetation in that area for two reasons. One is very much for safety with signals, we can't have them obscured, the drivers need to see the signals.

"And we are cutting back on vegetation to stop leaves on the line, undertaking a total of six miles of clearance from Elmswell to Haughley.

"All the vegetation clearance and management is safety related. Thinking back to the days of stream there was very little vegetation, the steam set it alight and cleared it naturally.

"We have to do that manually now. We can emphasize with residents that it does not always look pretty. But our priority is safety, one, and performance, two."

The perennial problem of fallen leaves sticking to the tracks and causing travel chaos has been a painful but long-running joke. When crushed, the leaves form a hard Teflon-like coating, which causes train wheels to slip and slide.

A Network Rail spokesman said hundreds of three-man teams had gone out to hot spots nationwide to remove leaves by hand if necessary after the weekend rain.

Spokesmen for Anglia Railways, South West Trains and Thameslink all said their services had run without significant delay.

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