Rail minister Jo Johnson has asked Network Rail to suspend all non-safety-critical tree felling following alarm over the impact it could have on wildlife.
A review into Team Orange’s tree cutting and vegetation management has also been launched by the Department for Transport.
Assisted by the Tree Council and the RSPB, this assessment will look at Network Rail’s capacity and capability to manage vegetation in a way that minimises the harm to wildlife and whether staff need further training to identify methods that would be better than felling.
It comes after a petition calling for Network Rail to stop cutting down trees reached more than 74,000 signatures.
In 2017, Network Rail recorded more than 400 incidents of trains colliding with fallen tress and another 1,000 where they caused delays to services, costing the industry more than £100 million.
A spokesperson for Network Rail said they it constantly balances the needs of the environment and its line side neighbours with the needs and safety of the 4.6 million people who use the railway every day.
They added: “Most of the time when putting those standards and policies into action we get it right, but sometimes we don’t.
“To help us improve we have formed close partnerships with the Tree Council, the Woodland Trust and others experts in the field. We welcome the review announced by Jo Johnson and the opportunity to further improve.”
Jo Johnson said: “It is right that Network Rail are able to remove trees that could be dangerous, or impact on the reliability of services.
“But I also understand that cutting back trees can alarm people who enjoy these environments — and can especially raise concerns over the effect on birds during nesting season
“That is why I am commissioning this review. In the meantime I have asked Network Rail to suspend all felling during the current nesting season, except where it is safety critical.”
Findings from the report are expected back in the summer.