Vegetation clearance is to be carried out over a four-mile stretch along the railway corridor running from Burley Park to Horsforth, Network Rail have said.
In a letter to local residents, Network Rail says the ‘essential’ work will start in September and will remove all woody vegetation/trees within 21 feet of the railway line in a bid to keep it free from obstruction.
Beyond the 21 feet, vegetation that could hit the railway should it fall will be reduced or removed. The work is due to take place on the Harrogate Line, and the letter adds:
“Storm, rain and wind events result in incidents where falling trees cause disruption to train services and trains can collide with fallen trees and branches. These incidents have potential to cause injury as well as travel chaos for passengers.
“We recognise that the railway line provides a great natural wildlife corridor that attracts many species of animal, birds, flora and fauna but one that needs to be carefully managed all year to keep the railway safe.
“Before we clear vegetation an independent ecologist provides a risk assessment of the area to see if protected species are present. If protected species are found then the appropriate exclusion zones are put in place. Where suitable, logs and branches will either be left on site to create a safe habitat for wildlife, chipped and spread evenly across the site or completely removed.”
Environmental campaigners from the Armley Trees campaign, which was originally set up over concerns about vegetation management taking place in the railway cutting in Armley, have blogged about their concerns. They wrote:
“This kind of ‘scorched earth’ approach to ‘vegetation management’ is akin to the practice which was widely criticised in 2018 (see this article in the Guardian) and which led to the Valuing nature – a railway for people and wildlife: the Network Rail vegetation management review.
“It begs the question: has anything actually changed at all since the recommendations from the Valuing Nature review and in view of what were supposed to be positive outcomes following the extreme vegetation at the hands of Network Rail contractors at Hadley Wood in 2018 (one of the case studies in the review)?
“And what of all the ‘lessons learned’ and promises made to ‘do things differently’ here in Armley? History just keeps repeating itself, here in Leeds and across the country.
“Our railway corridors should be managed sustainably and holistically: within the context of the climate emergency and in line with the Valuing Nature recommendation that ‘the importance of environment and biodiversity must be embedded alongside safety and performance‘.”
In June the group spoke out against tree felling alongside the River Aire in Kirkstall as part of work to build flood defences.