Network Rail

Saved from Network Rails scythes (for the moment)

on Friday, 16 November 2012. Posted in Network Rail

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A Hoppers Road resident received this letter this morning, advising that in 3 days time Network Rail will once again start removing the vegetation in the area they refer to as Winchmore  Hill '6mp to 8mp'. In sending out the letter on a Friday, with the work due to start on Monday, Network Rail is deliberately giving little time for residents to discover the exact nature of the work or raise any objections. 
 
David Burrowes, WH councillors and the Council have been alerted. David Burrowes says "I have spoken to the Chief Executive's office today and made my/our dissatisfaction clear and await a response today. I have demanded a deferral of the works pending proper consultation".

Click on the image to read the letter. 
 
UPDATE FROM DAVID BURROWES "I have just received a message from the Managing Director of Network Rail that following my representations the planned works for Monday have now been stopped. He accepts the late notice and apologises for the proper notification procedures not being applied"
 


Fifty years of inadequate tree maintenance

on Saturday, 08 September 2012. Posted in Network Rail

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Winchmore Hill resident Peter Johns, a retired chartered engineer, has been supporting a team of campaigners in Whitstable who have managed to secure a stay of execution,against  Network Rail's wholesale clearance of their embankments.

 

He has produced a new report, arguing that a combination of poor embankment construction and fifty years of  inadequate maintenance of track-side vegetation has led to Network Rail's difficulties in managing track quality and safety standards in Whitstable, as in other parts of the country including Grange Park.

 

Click on the image to download the report.


 

 

Network Rail: A summary in pictures

on Saturday, 12 May 2012. Posted in Network Rail

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Grange Park Before and After Network Rail's 'vegetation clearance'

 

 

More pictures of the destruction suffered by Grange Park, the replanting of the embankment and what people in Grange Park have thought about the work can be viewed in the N21 Photo Album 

 

 

 

NETWORK RAIL REPORTS & DOCUMENTS

on Wednesday, 16 May 2012. Posted in Network Rail

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Click here to access these documents

 

"It is unacceptable that Network Rail is still not fully transparent or accountable to Parliament or the taxpayer. The Department hands Network Rail over £3 billion each year and underwrites debt of over £25 billion and yet maintains the fiction that this is a private sector company. The National Audit Office must be allowed full audit access as quickly as possible to this organisation which is essentially kept afloat through public funds." The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts 13.3.12




 

The Tree Council produce damning report on the Grange Park embankment replanting (Copy)

on Friday, 20 December 2013. Posted in Network Rail

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The Tree Council produce damning report on the Grange Park embankment replanting (Copy)

 

On a cold and foggy December morning, Pauline Buchanan Black, Director General of The Tree Council and Jon Stokes, the charity's Project Manager and renowned hedgerow expert, traipsed across the Grange Park embankments, notebooks and cameras at the ready. They were visiting at the behest of Network Rail, following campaigning by local residents; to inspect the site and assess the success of the tree and hedge replanting, undertaken at the end of 2011.

 

A week later, they were back on site, for a two hour debriefing with a group of local residents who have been lobbying Network Rail; accompanied by senior managers from Network Rail, including Dr Neil Strong, Network Rail's own tree specialist, who first presented Network Rail's replanting proposals back in February 2011.

 

Network Rail had originally promised to review the replanting in the Autumn of 2012; it has taken a year of persistent badgering to arrive at this point. Network Rail is a paid up member organisation of the Tree Council, therefore it could be argued that the Council is not a wholly independent arbiter. Nevertheless, it was an open and candid meeting, with Network Rail's Regional Manager Richard Owen, admitting to the devastation which resulted from the "scorched earth policy".


The Tree Council's conclusions were not good; the plant survival rate is below the standards used by leading tree bodies, including the Forestry Commision and the report identifies poor site preparation and maintenance of the site since planting.

 

Here is a summary of the findings


"The concept behind the planting plan appeared well thought through and in the main, executed as shown on the plan, The survival rate for hedge plants surveyed across the site was 88% and for trees, 68%: this is below comparable standards set by DEFRA and the Forestry Commission. The main cause of death appear to be a combination of poor ground preparation; lack of water, light and nutrients because of competition from grass and weeds; and poor planting techniques. To increase the chances of the project meeting its aims, we recommend a rigorous management to improve conditions and restock the dead plants."


The table provides a summary of the replanting, showing the high failure rate among the trees, with 83 of them reported to be dead, largely due to contractor errors and lack of maintenance. What a waste of money.

 

 

 Points arising from the report and the meeting


* The report states that "assessments were made on 1275 hedge plants and 258 trees throughout the site" . However it also reports that "4374 hedge plants and 411 trees were commissioned". The figures confirm what local residents have te always suspected, that the planting was well short of what was originally promised, with less than half the hedging plants actually planted and 150 fewer trees. The report alludes to this, by reference to the planting of two to three rows of hedge row plants, "not the ten or so shown on the plan cross section. The discrepancy will not affect the development of the hedge, but the local residents may have expected a more dense band of planting"

 

* It would seem that the contractors and Network Rail were at fault in not preparing the ground sufficiently, improving the quality of the soil prior to planning and using mulch to conserve water and reduce weeds.

 

  Weed control non existent. If grass growth continues, the death rate will                           Weed choking tubes. This has caused some trees to rot and die.

 increase and the growth rates will decline.

 

 

* A number of trees and whips were planted at the wrong depth and have become water logged.

 

 Holly isn't surviving in the tubes. It is dying back as it is too wet inside.                               Hedge whips planted too deep resulting in the death of plant material.

 Holly needs a mess guard on this site to ensure survival.                                                        Blackthorn particularly suffering - 3 dug up for reference.

 

 

* Many trees were not supported with the correct size of tree tie and "a variety of inappropriate materials have been used to tie the trees to the stake".

 

* Nursery labels should have been removed as these can constrict growth.

 

Excessive weed growth which has not been controlled. No sign of mulch,                        Ties are too low and the stakes have been wrongly specified for the size of tree.

spraying or other ground treatment.                                                                                             They should have been at least 30cm taller, ideally 60cm taller, to ensure tree

                                                                                                                                                                   stability. Rubbing of the stem is evident at top of many stakes due to poor

                                                                                                                                                                   staking technique.

 

* There was evidence of scars on the trunks of some of the trees, where they may have been damaged by a mechanical digger

 

Across the site, tree ties have been broken, because they were inadequate                    Evidence of major scars, suggesting poor planting practice. The damage to a few

for the size of tree. Planters have used a mixture of ties used to secure the                     of the trees is so significant that they should be considered as failures, even if they

hedge guards, which are entirely inappropriate, and some gardening ties which        are currently alive.

again are too small for the size of tree. This has resulted in the trees leaning,

falling and snapping.

 

* Hedgerow growth has been minimal in the past year, largely due to lack of maintenance, in particular weeding around the plants and lack of water.

 


What next?


 The Tree Council team has made a number of recommendations, including the use of herbicides to reduce weed cover around the hedging; improvement of the soil along the Green Dragon Lane boundary, where the soil has been too compacted to allow for healthy plant growth and the replacement of dead trees.

 

A proper schedule of maintenance needs to be drawn up, taking 2013, rather than 2011 as the base year, which must include watering, if this site is to have any chance of recovery in the next decade.

 

 As the planting has not been as dense as outlined in the original plan, it is hoped that further planting will take place, that Network Rail will honour its earlier commitment, especially as the lack of maintenance and poor practices have lengthened the time it will take to restore the site to becoming one again a wildlife corridor.

 

Network Rail has accepted the report and recommendations. Regional Director Richard Owen, who is taking responsibility for all the work proposed between Palmers Green and Enfield Chase stations, (the Grange Park embankment replanting plus the new maintenance work), has given a categorical assurance that only minimal maintenance work is proposed. There will be no removal of mature trees or large shrubs. Contractors will be fully supervised to ensure that these guidelines are adhered to.

 

He also acknowledged that Network Rail has lost the trust of its "line-side neighbours" and this reputational damage needs to be rebuilt.

 

Yes, we have heard this before, but there is more accountability and transparency promised. It will take several years before this former wildlife corridor reverts to nature; the speed at which this happens is down to nature and contingent on Network Rail fulfilling its obligations made in December 2013, not February 2011. Only time will tell.

 

The Tree Council report can be read here.

Network Rail's new assault on N21

on Friday, 20 December 2013. Posted in Network Rail

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Network Rail's new assault on N21

 

Over the last few days letters from Network Rail have been dropping through the letterboxes of households abutting the railway line between Palmers Green and Enfield Chase. The letter advises residents that VEGETATION MANAGEMENT WORKS are about to commence along the 3.5 mile stretch on December 2nd and will continue until February 7th.


UPDATE


Following hundreds of emails from local residents to Network Rail's Community Manger and senior managers and lobbying by David Burroughs, Network Rail has postponed the 'vegetation maintenance' planned for the N21 embankments. 


Over the past few days dozens of you, from Hoppers Road to The Chine, have contacted Network Rail's Community Relations Manager Denise Thompson. You have made your concerns and outrage about Network Rail's embankment work very loud and clear. The new residents of Henrietta Close (where the garden centre used to be) have reported to Network Rail, the police and the Bat Protection League that there are bats living in the trees between Compton Road and Station Road and removing trees inhabited by bats is a criminal offence.


Together we have won a stay of execution. The work on the embankments between Palmers Green and Enfield Chase has been postponed, apart from urgent work to remove branches of a tree near Grange Park Station on Saturday night, which are touching the overhead lines. What's more, 'Disgusted N21' have started to extract new promises from Network Rail's senior management. Paul Rutter, NR's Director for London North and South met with David Burrowes yesterday and has agreed to meet with residents to discuss Grange Park replanting and the proposed line-side clearance work; appoint an independent assessor and involve the Tree Council in future planting.


Progress, but only time will tell if Network Rail will finally fulfill their obligations and take community relations more seriously.


 


 

 

Alarm bells have started ringing. The letter has arrived just ahead of the date that work is due to commence and the letter bears a striking resemblance to the letter which preceded the embankment clearance around Winchmore Hill station in 2010 and the Great Grange Park Tree Massacre. Whilst safety is of course of paramount importance, now as in 2011, it has been widely acknowledged that the wholesale vegetation clearance was more for the convenience and potential profit of Network Rail, with zero concern for the environmental damage and massive upset for people living in the area, who are also Network Rail's own customers.

 

After the clearance we had apologies, from no less than the Network Rail Chairman David Higgins who assured us that Network Rail would learn from this incident and adapt their community engagement and consultation. Mr Higgins has now departed, taking up his new role this month as Chairman of HS2, tasked to "drive down costs".

 

In the last couple of days urgent requests have been sent to Denise Thompson, Network Rail's Community Manager, who was the signatory of the letter, from our elected representatives including David Burrowes MP and Grange Park's Councillor Terry Neville, to clarify exactly what is proposed. Surely one would expect that NR's Community Manger can be contacted by telephone? No such luck. You have to call Network Rail's 24 Hour National Helpline, who will rely the message to Ms Thompson. She won't call you back but email a suitably vague response along the lines of "we will get back to you".

 

We are promised an "ecological survey". Perhaps this will be similar to the one undertaken in Whitstable, Kent by Network Rail contractors Capel. When a Whitstable resident asked the Capel employee charged with performing a nest survey what qualifications he held for doing so and the employee said "I've got birds at the end of my garden, mate"


Following the vegetation clearance Network Rail's Senior Lineside Engineer Dr Neil Strong gave a presentation at the Civic Centre in March 2011 outlining the proposals for replanting the site, backed up by a three year maintenance contact "to enable planting to establish successfully".

 

 

 

 

You can view the presentation here.

 

It took several months of lobbying to even get Network Rail to a meeting to discuss replanting the site, but in September 2011 a group representing local residents and council officers met to agree the planting, with assurances that the area would be replanted with native species and wild flowers, with an agreement to review the planting after a year, As soon as the planting was done, it was apparent that the single line of twigs was unlikely to provide the screening that Network Rail had promised.

 

Here is Network Rail's own illustration of how the planting should look after three years - including hedgerow 7.5 metres wide, not one semi - dead line of twigs.

 

 

A year came and went, we have now passed the two year point, and many of the trees and shrubs have died or else are unable to grow because they are still encased in plastic. Despite countless emails from numerous residents and elected representatives to Denise Thompson, we have got no further than vague promises that a contractor will visit the site shortly.

 

We want a site visit NOW, before any further work is undertaken and to finally start to plan the proper restoration of the Grange Park site.


Network Rail have failed to fulfil their promises. The way in which we have been treated is a travesty, poor community relations and corporate governance.

 

Here are some of the views expressed by elected representatives and local residents. Perhaps you would like to have your say via the comment box below, as we try to get Network Rail back to Grange Park and ensure that they don't undertake further wanton environmental destruction. Your email details will not be published and your full name will not be used if you prefer.

 

Should you wish to also contact Community Manager Denise Thompson, her email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

"David is concerned about the number of trees that have died on site and the sparseness of the replanting which contradicts the replanting promised by Network Rail some while ago. David would therefore like to attend the site visit if he can and to be informed of what plans Network Rail have for properly planting the area according to the plans previously agreed. David would therefore appreciate knowing that the site visit will be going ahead soon and he would be grateful if you could copy him in to the notification of the proposed date".

Jane Kelly, Constituency Office Manager, on behalf of David Burrowes MP

 

"I very much support the residents in their campaign to ensure that the land abutting the railway is restored as nearly as possible to its former glory. I readily accept that there were safety concerns about the size and spread of some of the trees and growth so have no axe to grind about the need for some action at the time, though I was concerned about the scale and the inadequate consultation. That said I don't want or need to rehearse the earlier dispute, save to say that I do think that it is important to residents and to the Council that we make the best of what is for many a particularly attractive part of the area, viz the area around the station and for that matter Winchmore Hill Station".

Councillor Terry Neville, Grange Park ward

 

"The subject of "Vegetation Management" is a sensitive one, and has been the subject of much correspondence over the years, as it seems that on each occasion Network Rails contractors are overly enthusiastic in their efforts, which have previously resulted in the total destruction of swathes of trees and shrubs, which have posed no safety threat to the railway whatsoever. I am aware that trackside vegetation has to be kept under control, I just want to ensure that what is planned will not once again result in unnecessary destruction and devastation".

Peter Duce, local resident

 

"Network Rail are incapable of managing vegetation. It gets in their way. So they remove it. And they then rely on an oxymoron of a Community Relations Officer to deal with the outcry by living up to the last two syllables of my description of her. They are hoping that in time we will go away. We must continue to stay strong. Let us prove them wrong".

Peter Johns, local resident

 

"It appears that Network Rail are attempting to utilise their tried, tested and to date successful 'modus operandi' of notifying interested parties as late as possible (if at all) doing exactly as they please and presenting a 'fait accompli'. Once the irreversible damage is done they can just shrug off any responsibility - as we have seen so clearly previously" Julie Wassmer, environmental campaigner, Whitstable


"It's a shame that current day bureaucrats forget that they are the servants of the people and instead act like dictators. Those particularly at the top need to be held more accountable to the people they serve instead of treating them with contempt" Councillor Ertan Hurer, Winchmore Hill ward


"It's not their money, and it's not their local community. I would say Network Rail is indifferent to the wishes of local residents but, at times, senior officers have seemed positively contemptuous. Councillor Martin Prescott, Winchmore Hill ward


 

Network Rail environmental policies are currently being investigated by the European Council and a case study of Grange Park will be included in the next submission.

 

Hang on a minute - do I see another holding (albeit apologetic) email in my inbox?. Sorry Ms Thompson we're tired of waiting. Lets keep up the pressure N21.

Network Rail cutting down trees further down the line

on Thursday, 14 June 2012. Posted in Network Rail

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Despite Network Rail's apologies, they are continuing with the policy of wholesale destruction of wildlife corridors along our local lines, even though it is the bird breeding season. This is the scene this week along the line, near the Emirates Stadium.

 

 

More details on the Islington Gazette website here

 

Mind The Gap

on Sunday, 10 June 2012. Posted in Network Rail

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A number of local residents have been corresponding with Network Rail, First Capital Connect, the Office of Rail Regulation and David Burrowes regarding the gap that now exists between the platform at Winchmore Hill Station and the train doors. This is a result of Network Rail moving the rails, which is believed to have been done to enable wider freight trains to be run along the Hertford loop at higher speeds.
 
First Capital Connect is responsible for the station and thus passenger safety and have been communicating with Network Rail regarding the issue. They have acknowledged that the gap between the platform and train now exceeds safety standards. Contractors are due to make changes to the platform in July, although no details have been provided on what improvements will be made.
 
This is now the best part of a year since the changes were made and the problem was first reported and leaves a potentially dangerous situation in the intervening period, especially for the young and old.
 
Here is what some residents have written.
 
"I travelled to Whistable on Thursday 7th June leaving from Winchmore Hill. It had been raining all morning before I caught the 13.34. To board the train I had to step up and across the gap and in doing this my foot slipped on the wet floor and I fell. I  was holding on to the handle but it was too low to be of use in keeping me upright. I was extremely lucky not to fall down the gap onto track level. Fortunately there were were two employees of FCC in my doorway and they, with difficulty, managed to help me back to my feet even though my feet were still sliding on the wet floor. I would welcome the opportunity to thank those two for their assistance. Without them I don't know what I would have done. Why is the floor at the entrance to the carriage not non-slip as on Kondon buses? Why is the handrail too small and too low to be of any effective use. I shall be communicating with First Capital Connect and Network Rail. I am copying this email to David Burrowes".  Peter Johns
 
"I have taken this issue to the Office of Rail Regulation. They were very helpful and have pushed for action to be taken. Network Rail have admitted that the gap exceeds safety standards. They are (according to the Rail Regulator planning to do some work at Winchmore Hill in July. My concern is that they will probably do the very minimum, rather than making it the best it can be for passengers". Nina Anstee
 
"We have a friend, who cannot get on the train without asking help from another passenger, another now travels to Palmers Green.  It is impossible to wheel on a buggie without help.  Lifting luggage on is hopeless. It seemed to happen over night last summer.  One day the gap was manageable the next day not.  Extraordinary. The suggestion is that the rails have been moved to accommodate overnight freight trains.  I distinctly remember at the Grange Park meeting last winter we were told there would not be more freight trains at night.  Network Rail and First Capital Connect seem to be ignoring the situation but it really should be corrected as soon as possible before some child or elderly person falls between the train and the platform".
Norma Chapman

Heavy freight is already on the Hertford Loop

on Tuesday, 22 May 2012. Posted in Network Rail

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Terry O'Sullivan, who lives on Hoppers Road, writes about his experiences dealing with Network Rail and what he thinks is their agenda.

 

I keep seeing references in the various email to NR wanting to upgrade the Hertford North loop to take heavy freight traffic . I have lived in Hoppers road since 1980 and the fact is that this has already been done .
 
 When I first moved here the only heavy traffic on the loop was that which had been diverted due to work on the main line and was quite a rarity . Today If you sit in my garden  you can set your watch by frequency of these heavy goods trains virtually every  hour seven days a week , 24 hours a day. The only good news is that the speed is currently being kept low.
 
I suspect the purpose of any further upgrade work will be to allow a further  increase in traffic and the speed of the trains .
 

 

Whitstable's fight against Network Rail

on Saturday, 12 May 2012. Posted in Network Rail

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Update on Whitstable's battle to prevent Network Rail destruction of another wildlife corridor (17.5.12)

 

This is the situation right now as far as local people in Whitstable are concerned: literally hundreds of residents are incensed that Network Rail is still planning to go ahead on 28th May with the tree felling operations on the Cromwell Road embankment - during the bird breeding season - and when the company has been advised by all the relevant wildlife agencies not to do so. There is a high risk that breeding birds, their eggs and nests will be disturbed/destroyed/damaged in this operation, the police are standing by, the RSPB is standing by, and local people are standing by. Forget the cursory nest studies done by their contractor, we have done our own, and Network Rail should be made very aware of that.

 
The company can be sensible and postpone these works until, at the very least, August, when the bird breeding season is over. However, if they decide not to do so they are choosing a high risk strategy for themselves in terms of breaking the law - since it is a certainty that this felling cannot take place without disturbing nests of breeding birds as defined by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. 
 
The company is creating catastrophic publicity for itself, and with regards to the latter, I would like to remind them that there is an article being published in the Sunday Telegraph this very weekend about our campaign. More people are contacting us daily, including the media, so Network Rail should know that we will not go away, neither will we stand by and watch this wildlife corridor be destroyed by their contractor's chainsaws on 28th May - especially since there is no special license in place for this work to be undertaken as an emergency public safety issue.
 
Julie Wassmer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

One Sunday in April 2012, Network Rail dropped a leaflet through the letterboxes of a few people living in houses alongside the railway track advising that some vegetation work was to be undertaken by the track.  The following day, Network Rail contractors turned up with chainsaws and woodchippers to start felling the trees, exactly as happened months ago in Grange Park

 

Fortunately, the good people of Whitstable were up and about, had had their first cup of coffee of the day and called the Police, reporting the contractors for breaching the wildlife act.  Tree felling was halted pending a meeting between representatives of Whitstable and Network Rail.

 


 

THE LONDON ASSEMBLY WANT TO HEAR YOUR VIEWS ON NETWORK RAIL

on Friday, 14 October 2011. Posted in Network Rail

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The London Assembly Environment Committee has recently launched an investigation looking at the management of railway embankments.

 

Last week I joined the Committee in a visit to Grange Park to view the railway embankment. Network Rail were also in attendance. I’m very glad that they paid us a visit. They promised to learn from the Grange Park situation and most importantly they recognised the need to improve on their communication and public consultation efforts. Hopefully the London Assembly investigation into will produce some recommendations which will help change the way these ‘vegetation management’ programmes are conducted in future.

NETWORK RAIL REPLANTING UPDATE

on Thursday, 22 September 2011. Posted in Network Rail

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Members of the Grange Park Residents Replanting Committee met with Network Rail and Council officers on Tuesday to finalise the replanting of the embankment site.

 

The site has greened up over the past couple of months since the construction work finished, no these are not weeds you see before you, the site has been seeded with a grass and wild flower mix by Network Rail!  We are also starting to see some self seeded shrubs and plants on the site.

LETTER FROM DAVID HIGGINS CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NETWORK RAIL

on Friday, 24 June 2011. Posted in Network Rail

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David Burrowes has published a letter he received on June 9th from David Higgins, Chief Executive of Network Rail, in which he sets out how the Grange Park embankment project will be taken forward.

 

In the letter which followed an extensive two hour meeting between David Burrowes and Mr. Higgins he apologises for the mistakes made in previous months and confirms that going forward Network Rail will learn from this incident and adapt their community engagement and consultation. He also makes assurances that when it comes to replanting, budgets will not be an issue and that there will be full involvement of community groups with the process.