Network Rail has announced major steps have been taken to preserved and develop lineside biodiversity across all 53,000 hectares of land under their care.
Following John Varley’s independent report regarding the land under Network Rail’s management and biodiversity’s within them, the Biodiversity Action Plan has been formed.
Detailed assessments of the land and its biodiversity have been made through imagery (satellites, aerial, trains) and some physical surveys to produce a comprehensive report on species, their locations, populations etc.
Combined with the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology’s (UKCEH) knowledge and experience, Network Rail can effectively manage every area of land, reduce disease, promote rare species and much more.
This information can also be used to protect biodiversity’s when working nearby by adapting schedules and methods to be less harmful.
Professor Richard Pywell of UKCEH says: “This is an ambitious new plan to use the latest technology to manage habitats more sustainably along Britain’s railways, and it has been a great opportunity to work with Network Rail to improve biodiversity.
“Using high-resolution satellite and aircraft imagery enables us to map habitats across the rail network in a safe, quick and cost-effective way. By analysing the wealth of biological records across the UK, we have been able to identify likely biodiversity ‘hotspots’ and understand more about the role of the railway in connecting wildlife across landscapes. Together, this new information will inform Network Rail’s thinking on how best to maintain and enhance the environment.”
Network Rail’s Safety, Technical and Engineering Director Martin Frobisher said: “This technology is tremendously exciting. Measuring biodiversity is very complicated, and it’s especially tricky for a large organisation such as Network Rail, which manages a vast land estate spread throughout the country. This is a real breakthrough, and this technology enables us to measure and monitor the progress we are making.
“We are determined to improve the biodiversity alongside the railway lineside. Our Biodiversity Action Plan sets out a new approach and by working with experts like UKCEH and by using the latest tools and technology we can better manage and conserve a species-rich lineside while continuing to run a safe and reliable railway that benefits our passengers, our neighbours, and our planet.”
Rail Minister Chris Heaton Harris said: “This high-tech approach will help the rail industry do even more to preserve the unique and picturesque habitats found alongside our rail network.
“By protecting biodiversity hotspots and rare species, the use of science and satellites is making the railway an even greener way to travel.”
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