Controversial Network Rail tree felling comes to St Albans and Radlett

PUBLISHED: 16:09 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:09 28 September 2018

St Albans protestors join cllr Helen Campbell and cllr Salih Gaygusuz in the back garden of a Lancaster Road resident to protest against Network Rail's removal of trees from the Midland Main Line. Picture: DANNY LOO

St Albans protestors join cllr Helen Campbell and cllr Salih Gaygusuz in the back garden of a Lancaster Road resident to protest against Network Rail's removal of trees from the Midland Main Line. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

Network Rail’s controversial programme of tree felling has come to St Albans.

A one to two metre strip of vegetation is being cleared on one side of the Midland Main Line railway between September 20 and 28 to allow new fencing to be installed.

A Network Rail spokesperson said the new fencing is to prevent people trespassing on the railway, which causes trains to be slowed down or stopped entirely. This, the spokesperson explained, can cause huge delays which last for multiple hours and miles.

Network Rail sent a letter to residents in June and wrote to St Albans council on March 2, 2017, in addition to completing an ecology survey. Plans are afoot to fell trees in Radlett too.

These instances of felling are controversial, with over 100,000 people having signed a petition calling on Network Rail to stop chopping down trees. In May, rail minister Jo Johnson announced a review of Network Rail’s vegetation management and ordered them not to fell any trees during this year’s nesting period.

Lancaster Road resident Jon Bulloch said: “In the past, Network Rail used to trim back anything encroaching on the line, but they have a new programme that is pretty much a scorched earth policy of flattening everything, whether it needs to go or not.

“They have not been accountable enough. They set their own remit, but are ultimately answerable to Government.”

Mr Bulloch said people would not realise the scope of what was happening from the letter Network Rail sent out as it was ‘wordy’ and the diagram was hard to understand.

“It’s like chopping down The Wick in Marshalswick. It’s insane people did not know about this.”

Marshalswick councillor Helen Campbell first heard about this last Thursday, from council officers.

She said: “I thought it was pretty outrageous. I fully understand the need to work on the railways, but a balance has to be struck here.

“A number of residents have contacted me about it, one of whom is a very upset 14-year-old girl, who sent me a very emotive email about looking at the trees and enjoying the wildlife.”

Cllr Campbell has asked residents to continue to write and send photos to her.

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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