After many residents of the Royal Town expressed their concerns about the severe and unsightly clearance of trees and vegetation alongside the railway lines– destroying habitats for local wildlife as well as being unsightly – Andrew Mitchell MP met with the Chief Operating Officer of the Network Rail London North Western route, James Dean, and the Network Rail Senior Communications Manager, Jon Crampton, to raise these concerns directly with them.
In a frank discussion at the House of Commons, Andrew Mitchell highlighted to the railway representatives the real concerns that his constituents had expressed. It was explained to Mr. Dean and Mr. Crampton how trees were axed in the middle of the night; live vegetation was cut back after verbal assurances from Network Rail that only dead or dying plants would be removed; and that numerous Suttonians had deep concerns over the stability of the railway embankments once tree roots had died off. Andrew showed photographs of the devastation, provided by his constituents, to the representatives of Network Rail, who were shocked to see the extent of the damage.
In response, Mr. Dean stated that compensation amounting to half a million had been granted to passengers affected by delays caused by vegetation on the lines, and as such Network Rail did not have a policy of re-planting removed trees, as this simply led to further problems once they had grown back. Andrew expressed his concern that the policy of removal suggests that the cost of maintenance is considered by Network Rail to be less important than the visual benefits and noise reduction to local residents, which impacts severely on those living near to the railway lines.
The Network Rail representatives were keen to stress that the Network Rail Vegetation Management Review, undertaken by John Varley and published late last year, would be fully implemented and would improve the situation.
After receiving a full written response from Network Rail, Andrew said:
“I have raised this because of the significant number of my constituents who have queried the policy and expressed very understandable annoyance & worry about its effects.”