Great Cornard: Gardener claims fruit trees could have been killed by Network Rail weed train

Pat Ireland, pictured in his Great Cornard garden, is angry after his trees have been poisoned, he c

Pat Ireland, pictured in his Great Cornard garden, is angry after his trees have been poisoned, he claims by Network Rails weed train spraying the track. - Credit: Archant

A devastated gardener claims mature trees he planted close to a railway line have been killed by chemicals from a ‘weed train’.

Pat Ireland, pictured in his Great Cornard Garden, is angry after his trees have been poisoned, he c

Pat Ireland, pictured in his Great Cornard Garden, is angry after his trees have been poisoned, he claims by Network Rails weed train spraying the track. - Credit: Archant

Patrick Ireland, who lives at Shelford Crossing Cottage in Great Cornard, said he has lost a pear tree and a walnut tree, and he claims several others have been damaged by weed killer administered by the Network Rail vehicle.

Last night, a spokesman for the company told the EADT they were looking into the case and were “taking it seriously”.

But Mr Ireland, 78, said he would be unable to replace the trees – many of which he planted more than 30 years ago – and see them grow during his lifetime.

He said: “Railways usually have about 10ft each side of the tracks but because I am in an old gatekeeper’s cottage, my house is only about 7ft away from the line and my ground is touching the railway.

“Network Rail’s weed train sprays about 10ft into the air and because my home is so near to the track, I have been asking them to spray along the bottom of my garden by hand as they do around the level crossing, but they don’t seem to take any notice.

“I have spent thousands of pounds on my trees over the years, but since they sprayed last week, my lovely pear tree - which was laden with fruit - is dead and my apple trees look like witches’ broomsticks.

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“I’ve been in touch with Network Rail but I keep getting fobbed off and no-one will take the blame.”

Mr Ireland said he was also scared to let his grandchildren play in the garden in case there was a risk posed by the weed killer.

According to Network Rail, they use different mixes of herbicides depending on which part of the track is being sprayed. The main one is glyphosate – the standard chemical for weed killing.

Chris Denham of Network Rail said: “We use the weed train as part of our work to control vegetation as trees and plants can cover up signals, fall on to the tracks or overhead power lines and stop rail workers from getting to safety when trains are passing.

“Pernicious weeds can also affect the ballast and track bed the trains run on, so we have to keep them down.”

Mr Denham said it was rare for line-side neighbours’ trees to be killed by the weed killing trains, adding: “Our procedures and chemicals are designed to stop that from happening.

“However, we take it very seriously and are looking into this case with our suppliers. We would suggest that this gentleman also investigates other possibilities, such as disease, as if there is a deeper problem it will need stopping before it spreads.”

He urged Mr Ireland to get in touch with the company’s helpline for advice on how to put in a claim for compensation.

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