Concern over plans to remove vegetation next to railway line

May 2019 - The first Class 710 in passenger service arrives at Gospel Oak

This type of train serves the Romford to Upminster route - Credit: Network Rail

A Havering environmental group has raised concerns about plans to remove vegetation along the Romford to Upminster train line.

The Recorder reported in November that Network Rail had written to residents nearby saying its staff will take away "overgrown" trees and vegetation next to the railway.

Havering Friends of the Earth founding member Rosina Purnell claimed she has unsuccessfully requested access three times to the railway infrastructure company's ecological report into the project.  

Rosina said: “They [Network Rail] said in a letter to residents in October that we could have access to the report if we apply for it.  

“I have sent three requests and still haven’t got it. It makes you wonder if they are hiding something.”  

A Network Rail spokesperson confirmed it offered to provide the survey to residents, but said it has not yet been possible as the report is still being finalised.  

Rosina, 74, from Hornchurch, said residents are worried that “crucial vegetation will be lost” as a result of the works. 

Network Rail’s spokesperson said managing trees and vegetation is “very important to keep passengers and track workers safe."

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Reasons stated in favour of the work included that vegetation and trees can obscure signals, touch live electrical equipment, blow or fall onto the tracks, undermine track foundations and prevent track staff having a safe place to wait while trains pass. 

They added: “This work also helps reduce leaves falling onto the line, which can affect train acceleration and braking, delaying trains during the autumn months and increasing the risk of an accident happening.”  

Rosina, who lives beside the shuttle railway, said it is home to a “very important habitat for insects and wildlife”.  

She added: “We are all very concerned because we have a lot of beautiful mature trees and vegetation along that stretch of the railway and we want to hang on to as much of it as possible. 

“I don’t see why they can’t be cut back rather than cut down.”  

But Network Rail's spokesperson said the planned work is “critical” for the “continued safe and reliable running of trains.”  

They said it arranged a virtual community briefing "to help inform residents of what is being planning, what to expect and why it is necessary".  

They added: “Removing vegetation is not a decision we take lightly.

“Dates for the work will be confirmed to residents by letter once finalised.”