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Environment

10 Million Trees May Be Chopped Down to Help UK Trains Run Faster

Network Rail, which owns and manages most of Britain’s rail network, has come under fire for an alleged plan to cut down up to 10 million trees. 

The company wants to reduce the number of delays caused by leaves and branches falling off trees and landing on railway lines. 

As part of its “vegetation management”, Network Rail has used drones to create an aerial survey of the trees growing within 60 metres of its 20,000 miles of railway tracks — a total of 10 million trees. 

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According to the Guardian, thousands of trees have already been cut down across the country, and environmental campaigners are furious. Many have turned to Twitter to report trees being felled in their neighbourhoods. 

Co-leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, described it as “environmental vandalism” and added that “no one is saying no work is needed but this is just overkill.” 

The tree-felling scheme has caused further concern for bird-lovers as well, as it comes in the middle of nesting season.

An RSPB spokesperson told the Guardian: “The worry is that much of this work is… non-urgent work hat is simply being carried out with little regard to the presence of birds and other animals.” 

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“If such … work is being done without reference to the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which offers basic protection to nesting birds, it may well be in breach of the law,” they added. 

Network Rail says on its website that leaf mulch on railway tracks reduces the train’s grip. A single tree can have as many as 50,000 leaves, it adds, and thousands of tonnes of leaves fall onto Britain’s railway tracks every year. 

The company said that it created the aerial “tree census,” which was completed in March, as it allowed it to be more selective about which trees should be cut down. The most problematic types of tree are sycamore, poplar, horse and sweet chestnut, ash, and lime, it added. 

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A Network Rail spokesperson said it adheres to “environmental requirements,” and added that “managing vegetation is vital to running a safe and punctual railway. Getting everyone home safe every day is our top priority." 

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