Network Rail and national conservation charity The Tree Council have joined forces to plant more than 80,000 trees and hedgerows across the country this winter, as part of a four-year, £1 million tree planting pledge.
Funded by Network Rail and managed by The Tree Council, local planting schemes are taking place in areas from ancient woodlands to city parks and in communities from the Wirral to Worcester. The first 20,000 trees will be in the ground by Christmas, with another 60,000 planted by the end of March 2021, and tens of thousands more to follow over the lifetime of the pledge.
The £1 million pledge was announced at the end of last year to give local people the money, materials and guidance to plant and look after thousands of trees within their communities. Network Rail and The Tree Council worked with community groups, parish councils, schools and others to identify locations and get everything in place for the winter planting season.
For this first year of the project the schemes are all on community land, so not alongside the railway. Network Rail has more than six million of its own trees by the tracks, and the community planting schemes are part of the company’s wider commitment to biodiversity, as set out in its Biodiversity Action Plan.
Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “We’re absolutely committed to making a real difference to our environment – decarbonising trains, using greener forms of energy, reducing waste, helping our passengers make greener choices – and planting more trees is a huge part of that.
“Everyone knows that leaves on the line – the railway equivalent of black ice on the roads – can be a real problem, but by working hand-in-hand with experts like The Tree Council and with local communities we can strike the right balance between the safe and reliable running of the railway and the protection and enhancement of the environment.
“More than 80,000 trees in the ground by the end of this planting season is a massive achievement and a reason to celebrate but I’m determined this is only the beginning. We can achieve even more in the future.”
Welcoming the scheme, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “This is a ground-breaking project to create and improve woodlands around the country.
“Last month the Government presented its ‘ten point plan’ for a green industrial revolution and Network Rail’s tree planting scheme is a major early step towards making a key industry, rail, even greener.”
Andrew Haines launched the planting projects in West Sussex during National Tree Week, joined by CEO of The Tree Council Sara Lom and parish council chair Andrew Shaxton. He planted the first of 4,290 trees to restore a South Downs woodland that had been decimated by dieback. The disease had infected almost a third of the trees in the wood, meaning they had to be taken down to remove the danger to walkers and drivers.
Other schemes include more than 6,000 trees to be planted across historic farmland in the Lake District to help shelter livestock and provide flood resilience, and around 1,000 trees in a Cornish coastal pasture in response to devastating weather events, that can also be used for ‘social prescribing’ for people with mental health needs.