Flytipping risk for Scotland’s Railway

Keira McLuskey, Head of Sustainability at Network Rail Scotland ,
4 May 2022

In this blog, Keira McLuskey, Head of Sustainability at Network Rail Scotland, discusses the problem of flytipping on and around Scotland's railways, highlighting an example found at Newcraighall Road in Edinburgh to illustrate this.

During lockdown flytipping across Scotland was a huge issue for many landowners, including Network Rail.

Litter continues to be an issue for Scotland’s Railway. It’s a serious problem that not only looks bad but can also affect the operation of the railway.

Litter can attract rats that chew on cables leading to signal failures, while metal cans and foil can cause short circuits in the signalling system causing delays for passengers.  Waste blocking drainage channels or watercourses leads to flooding which affects both the railway and adjacent landowners.

Flytipping is unsightly, and waste may contain substances which are hazardous to both people and the environment. Recent cases have blocked access roads and gates, preventing vital maintenance work taking place. Staff can also be injured when clearing the mess.

The same applies to fault teams reacting to operational events and can result in delays to repairs or our response to other incidents.

There are many occasions where risks are increased due to how and where waste has been dumped at vehicle and pedestrian accesses, creating additional underfoot hazards and preventing safe access.

Flytipping is also dangerous – especially if people trespass on the railway. It’s a criminal offence too and carries a fine of up to £1,000.

The ‘invisible’ costs of litter and fly-tipping affect us all. Our neighbours can be impacted by litter that is left on the lineside. Even more worryingly, plastic bottles and empty food packaging dumped on our lineside can have a detrimental impact on wildlife.

Nationally, millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is spent clearing up after criminal dumpers each year.

This money would otherwise be used to improve stations and track, providing better journeys for passengers and freight


The below example of flytipping at Newcraighall Road in Edinburgh cost Network Rail over £100,000 in total to initially deal with the problem and then the subsequent clean ups.

The areas affected were old sidings areas / leased railway yards. In the end, Network Rail erected a more robust fence to attempt to prevent further flytipping at this location.