Rail lines, especially electrified ones, are not designed to operate alongside large amounts of vegetation. Vegetation with a heavy leaf fall can cause a build-up on a train line, branches of trees leaning onto a train line can endanger drivers and passengers alike, and fallen trees and bushes lying on rail tracks must be removed. All of the above complications associated with vegetation can cause a train to stop, creating a further knock-on effect of delayed trains while endangering rail workers.
But, through proper line planning, vegetation management and de-vegetation procedures, rail lines can be improved, upgraded, and run safely and on-time. At UKDN Waterflow, we have a history of delivering de-vegetation services to rail operators across the country, often partnering with Network Rail.
Contact us for support with a specific vegetation issue, or read below to learn more about the technical work we deliver to keep railways safe.
Our railways vegetation clearance services
The first step in tackling any vegetation-induced issues is conducting a survey both to develop a good understanding of the ecology surrounding a rail track, and to identify the full scope of the solution that the present problem requires.
Naturally, we prefer to preserve vegetation and natural habitats for animals and wildlife as much as possible while guaranteeing rail safety. The guidelines we follow for de-vegetation practice are as follows:
- Vegetation is removed within 6.5m either side of a rail track.
- A tree is removed if its height exceeds the distance between the track and its stump.
- Vegetation; bushes or trees, with particularly high leaf-fall that is likely to collect on a train track is removed.
The type of vegetation removed includes weeds, which could affect the rail tracks, trees, and general bushes/greenery. When trees are removed, we often break them down into piles of logs which serve as new habitats for wildlife to occupy.
Once our de-vegetation work is complete, we install new fencing to improve safety around a rail line and prevent trespassing. We also upcycle, or recycle, excess vegetation wherever possible.
The problems vegetation can cause for a rail track
The most recent research (2019) around railway electrification indicates that 42% of the UK’s rail network is electrified. This is set to increase going forward; with electric trains proving to be cleaner, greener and quieter than their older, diesel-fuelled counterparts.
Vegetation can destabilize the ground beneath a rail track as roots push the earth around in search of water. This can cause issues for electrificatoin infrastructure, and so the 6.5m radius within which vegetation is cleared from a track includes ample space to install the necessary pylons and wiring required to electrify a train line.
Having completed our survey of a rail track, we make ethical considerations when designing our solution. Ethical considerations centre on conducting our services in the right way, so as to cause as little disruption to the natural environment (wildlife and habitats) and people (local residents and rail users) as possible. We make recommendations to rail operators regarding the noise levels equipment is likely to generate, for example, so that they can inform local residents of planned work.
What technology does de-vegetation work utilise?
Tools used to remove vegetation from around a rail track range from small, hand-held chainsaws to large rail-based machines. Surveying equipment, such as drones used in UAV Surveys, speeds up the surveying process and does not require workers to operate too closely to a rail line.
If you think you could benefit from surveying or de-vegetation work, don’t hesitate to consult with our experts at UKDN Waterflow.