Welcome to Acton Bridge

Network Rail's Tree Damage at Acton Bridge Station
June 2003

Daffodils in the Spring

Update 29. May 2012 : new links to Network Rail activities elsewhere

We've had quite a bit of correspondence over the intervening years from groups and individuals who have found this page and been concerned about Network Rail's policy of blanket tree clearance, and in particular about the manner in which it's been carried out. We've just (May 2012) been sent a couple of links to video clips, which deserve a wider audience. The first shows how Network Rail treated protesters in Whitstable this week, who were trying to protect trees and nesting birds from Network Rail's tree-slashing. It's especially worth watching about ten minutes in, where Network Rail's John Burrows manhandles first some local protesters with phone cameras, and then the Channel 4 News cameraman, before being led away by a Policeman. Great PR (not).

The first clip is a facebook video showing the protesters at the Whitstable site.

The second clip is a piece from Channel 4 News on Monday 28 May 2012.

In all our dealings with Network Rail - whether during our Substation Campaign, or over HGVs repeatedly using weight-restricted roads, toxic litter, gratuitous noise, access across private land and proposed construction without seeking planning permission, as well as the tree felling - they have displayed shocking arrogance and utter contempt for legitimate local concerns. These videos sadly illustrate that we are not alone.

Here are some photos taken in 2009 of litter (some of it pretty unsavoury) left behind by Network Rail on the roadside or next to footpaths in our village. All these pictures were taken from public rights of way, and the items concerned were bagged up and returned to Network Rail at a meeting called by Acton Bridge Parish Council in January 2010.

Network Rail Litter Network Rail Litter

Network Rail Litter Network Rail Litter

Back to 2003...

Daffodils in the Spring

These daffodils were planted by volunteer members of Acton Bridge Women's Institute after they cleared the neglected station flower beds of weeds and debris. The bulbs were kindly provided by Vale Royal Borough Council, weed-inhibiting tree bark was donated and delivered by a local farmer, and financial support and safety equipment were received from Central Trains. The WI and other volunteers from the village have continued to keep the station and its car park tidy, as part of our "Best Kept Village" effort, and also now in support of their entry for "Best Kept Station" (click for details of the initiative by JPD).

Steve Pardoe writes:

But now, Network Rail (or their contractors) have destroyed trees on the station and adjacent to it, presumably as part of a national policy of reducing the risk of leaves falling on the line. While everyone accepts that Network Rail have a responsibility to operate a safe and reliable railway, the manner in which the work has been undertaken beggars belief, and is also at variance with their stated policy.

A national campaign to draw attention to this problem is at NetworkWail.co.uk [this site has now ceased to be - Ed].

The BBC had a feature on "Your Politics" scheduled to go out on the Six O'Clock News on Monday 23. June. Click here for details.

Network Rail's leaflet claims that they are concerned about the environment, and that “we are careful only to prune or cut down problem trees”. It goes on: "Before starting a tree felling programme [Network Rail’s experts] will liaise with your local authority to inform them of our plans and to discuss and resolve issues particular to your local environment".

Acton Bridge Parish Council is the most local authority, and there has been no such liaison with us. Instead, the work has been carried out in an arbitrary and cavalier manner, and on behalf of the Parish Council I wrote to ask Network Rail for their firm assurance that the mess left by their contractors would be made good, in a thorough and timely manner, and that there would be no repetition of this vandalism in our village without the proper consultation to which their leaflet makes reference. You can see a copy of my letter here.

We received a reply from the Community Relations Officer for Network Rail's Manchester office, dated 16. June, agreeing that it was not acceptable for any of their contractors to leave a site without tidying up. However, they denied that their vegetation contractor, H.W. Martin Ltd, had been involved. The Network Rail letter asked for dates of the work, or the contractors' names involved.

We also received letters from Central Trains, to whom my original letter must have been forwarded by Network Rail. Central Trains confirmed that they had not instructed any contractor to carry out such work at Acton Bridge Station.

I wrote again to Network Rail on 19. June, saying that our best estimate was that the work took place during late May, and repeating that the mess left behind should be cleared up. I pointed out that some of our gardening volunteers had spoken to other work gangs from the nearby yard, and had been told that the tree felling had not been done by them. I also mentioned that a neighbour whose garden adjoins the station had had to clear branches and other debris from his land, after waiting in vain for it to be cleared by the railway authorities, and directed Network Rail to the pictures on this web page.

A brief reply from Network Rail dated 26. June said that my letter and the pictures had been forwarded to both the local maintenance teams and those involved in the West Coast Route Modernisation Programme, and that the writer would write further when she received their responses.

By mid September, no further correspondence had been received, so (in the context of the village's recent treatment by Network Rail) I raised this matter with the Network Rail representative at the Substation Public Information Event. He agreed that the work was unlikely to have taken place without having being authorised by Network Rail, and asked me to send him copies of the correspondence. I did this (to Euston) on 22. September.

I soon received a reply from Network Rail, which pointed out that "Central Trains have denied that the work was carried out on their behalf but Network Rail has never denied responsibility".

While this is strictly true (their letter of 16. June denied that their contractor had carried out the work, and that of 26. June was widening their enquiries), the writer did go on to say :

"Unfortunately, all our contractors have denied responsibility and without knowing exactly when the work took place we are unable to check the work logs to find the culprit and the reason for the tree felling. The best we can hope for is to narrow it down to two or three contractors. As the culprits cannot be found we will make arrangements for a work force to remove the rubbish and tidy the site. I trust this will resolve the matter".

Well, sort of. Given Network Rail's reputation for financial control and rigorous supervision of subcontractors, perhaps it's not too surprising that such work can be carried out on the railway without their being able to trace who did it. No doubt someone will have been paid to do it, though; and someone will now presumably be paid to undo it.

Here are some pictures of the mess which Network Rail have left.

Debris from the felling operation crushing the flowebeds maintained by Acton Bridge WI
Debris from Network Rail's felling operation crushing the flower beds maintained by Acton Bridge WI. It doesn't encourage the volunteers to keep the station looking attractive, does it?

Debris from the felling operation left to rot on the platform
Debris from the felling operation left to rot on the platform. How does this contribute to a safer railway?

Debris from the felling operation left to rot on the platform
Slashed tree trunks and branches. Note that several of the limbs have been only partially severed and left to die on the tree. The remaining leaves will still grow and fall.

Slashed tree trunks and branches
Network Rail claim that the work will be carried out by "approved arboreal contractors in accordance with British Standard 3998 (1998) 'Recommendations for Tree Work'. They're supposed to be "expert tree surgeons familiar with this kind of operation". Well, does this look like expert work to you?

Acton Bridge Station was looking better than it had for years, until Network Rail came along. What a shame.

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