Fight to stop 'destruction' of trees sees another promise made to postpone railway works

Ruth and Martin

Upset residents: Ruth and Martin Wollacott were devastated to witness trees at the back of their garden being cut down by Network Rail on January 17. - Credit: Ruth Wollacott

Another promise to postpone works on trees by a railway line has been made after the same agreement last week was broken.

Network Rail had planned to prune and fell the trees and vegetation which it says "impacts the safe operation of the railway" along the Upminster to Romford track.

After community backlash last week, it promised to pause the work. However, trees were still being cut back on Monday (January 17). 

It blamed a “miscommunication with contractors” for the situation, and a meeting with Romford MP Andrew Rosindell was held on that day with Network Rail representatives, councillors and residents.  

Mr Rosindell said he was “shocked and disappointed that contractors continued" despite Network Rail's assurance no work would take place. 

He said further mishaps will not be tolerated.  

A Network Rail spokesperson said it aims to manage the lineside in a way that “promotes biodiversity while minimising safety risk”. 

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Ruth Wollacott, who lives in Hornchurch's Osborne Road with her husband Martin, said she was “absolutely distraught” to see the trees being chopped down on Monday and branded Network Rail "disingenuous". 

Martin labelled the issue a “massive concern”: "Government are supposed to be encouraging the planting of trees, not chopping them down.”  

Tree cutting

The view from Martin and Ruth's back garden in Hornchurch on Monday, January 17. - Credit: Martin Wollacott

Network Rail’s spokesperson said: “We’ve agreed to postpone our work for another seven days. 

“This will allow us to review the scope of any remaining work and how this can be communicated to local representatives and residents.” 

Mr Rosindell hopes the week will allow Network Rail time to “minimise the amount of destruction and work done” on the trees, vegetation and "natural habitats" which border the railway”. 

He said he looks forward to continuing work with campaign group called Stop Network Rail’s Environmental Destruction, which created a petition on the issue with over 1,700 signatures so far. 

Despite the pause, Network Rail’s spokesperson said it will “need to remove trees that are an immediate safety risk, for example dead, diseased or dying”.  

They said its final plans will be shared as soon as possible. 

Mr Rosindell said when these are made public, he will host another meeting. 

This comes as a mother-of-two Kate Seacombe watched in dismay as two-century-old oak trees were drastically cut back as part of the works last week. 

Kate 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," she added.

Family pictured together

Kate with her two children and Dexter the dog - Credit: Kate Seacombe

Before and after

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