‘Every second there was less tree’: Historical oak trees along railway cut back

Family pictured together

From left to right: Olivia, Kate, Dexter the dog and Joshua. - Credit: Kate Seacombe

A Hornchurch mother-of-two watched in dismay as two-century-old oak trees were drastically cut back in railway maintenance works. 

Vegetation management along the Romford to Upminster train line is to ensure the “safe operation of the railway”, according to Network Rail. 

Kate Seacombe

Network Rail contractors began cutting down two oak trees in Osborne Road, Hornchurch on January 12 - Credit: Kate Seacombe

The plans were paused following community backlash and after a meeting with Romford MP Andrew Rosindell, but not before one of the oak trees at the bottom of Kate Seacombe's Osborne Road garden was cut back.

Kate, 37 - who lives with her husband Simon, 41; daughter Olivia, five; and son Joshua, four -  said the work saw one of the oak trees reduced to “just one pole”.  

“Every second there was less tree and as they were cutting there were squirrels running around.”  

Before and after

Before and after: The smaller oak tree on the right has been reduced to a tall tree stump. - Credit: Kate Seacombe

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are conscious that removing vegetation can be upsetting for our line-side neighbours and we seek to minimise the clearance where possible. 

“We cut back or remove vegetation next to the line that can impact the safe operation of the railway."

Kate said the two oak trees are part of the reason they bought the house in 2018.  

Network Rail works

Kate said she is sad to see the oak tree has been cut down so much. - Credit: Kate Seacombe

After Kate spoke to contractors they left the tree’s branches on her side of the garden, and little Olivia thanked them by drawing them a picture.

Most Read

"What we love about our garden is that you can see trees and greenery and I love seeing the squirrels run around and up the trees," Kate said.  


Five-year-old Olivia drew a picture of the tree to thank the contractors for saving it.  - Credit: Kate Seacombe

Speaking on the pause, a Network Rail spokesperson said: "We asked the contractor to pause their work on the mature trees and focus on low-lying vegetation for the time being while we reviewed our approach.   

“This review was done to make sure we are minimising the impact on trees and vegetation by the railway as far as possible while still being able to maintain a safe railway for all rail users.”  

Tree stump

One of the oak trees was drastically cut down. - Credit: Kate Seacombe

Charles Baker, senior public affairs manager at Network Rail, added it only considers cutting back foliage within 6.5 metres of the running rail or larger trees if they are dead or a safety risk.

Mr Rosindell said he was "shocked and angered" the historical oak trees were cut back "even after Network Rail had assured me that this would stop immediately".

However, he said: "It has been made clear that the clearing of all vegetation from track to fence line will very much be a targeted, ‘light touch’ approach."