Tree survey is root to improved rail safety

Jonathan Callis ,
2 Feb 2022

nrWe are delighted to share that Network Rail recently joined the Scottish Land & Estates membership. In this blog, Jonathan Callis, Senior Asset Engineer at Network Rail Scotland covers the risk that dead and diseased trees can pose to our rail networks.

Scotland’s Railway makes up more than 17 percent of Britain’s rail network, some 3,504 miles of lineside.  Surveying our lineside environment, including trees and vegetation we own, as well as those on adjacent land, is one part of wider efforts to proactively identify and safely remove as many dangerous trees as possible from alongside the railway. Network Rail’s latest survey of lineside vegetation in Scotland has identified an increasing risk from trees on land owned by our neighbours.   

In the first six months of this survey, more than two hundred trees have been identified on third party land which are dead, diseased or dying. Without intervention, these present a risk to the safe operation of the railway and those travelling on it especially during stormy weather.

Unsafe trees pose a significant safety risk to the railway. Train collisions with trees can result in injury to passengers or train crew or potentially derailment. Incidents caused by trees and vegetation cost Scotland’s Railway (and taxpayers who fund it) significant sums as well as causing disruption and delays to trains and passengers. The recent Storm Arwen was a powerful reminder of the growing impact and problem of extreme weather on Scotland’s Railway network. There were 71 incidents involving trees, 50% of which came from third party land.

While Network Rail can quickly act to remove trees on its own land, we are asking lineside neighbours to help by regularly checking the condition of their trees for defects or signs of disease to protect the safety of the railway.

We also encourage lineside neighbours to contact us before undertaking work to manage trees on their land close to the railway. Please contact our Asset Protection department: assetprotectionscotland@networkrail.co.uk or call (Monday to Friday during normal working hours only): 0141 555 4087.

If there is an urgent need to contact us out with these hours, please call our National Help Line on 03457 11 41 41.

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