Network Rail | EMEC Ecology
Photo Credit: Andrew Hall

About the project

The railway dates back almost 200 years and in many places supports a variety of wildlife. It could though, be even better with great potential for connecting, expanding, and enhancing fragmented habitats across the country while also offering safety and reliability for train passengers.

Following an independent review of Britain’s lineside vegetation management, Network Rail recently produced an ambitious Biodiversity Action Plan for managing the nation’s lineside estate. While their focus remains on running a safe and reliable rail network, the plan seeks to increase biodiversity, restore habitats, and support nature across the wider landscape by working together with lineside neighbours and a range of community partners.

In the east of England, local Wildlife Trusts and their subsidiary consultancies have been asked to help Network Rail to make the plan a reality. Coordinated by EMEC, a project team has been formed to include experts from within regional Wildlife Trust Consultancies and they will be supporting Network Rail by collecting biodiversity data through engagement with local communities, advising on habitat and vegetation management, and monitoring progress as the project develops.

How you can help

The first vital step to enhancing biodiversity alongside and close to the railway is understanding what biodiversity already exists and the opportunities for supporting it. Over the coming months and years, we will combine Network Rail’s existing data with satellite imagery, and with other publicly available ecological records. But, to add the most value, we need local knowledge. What is the local story? What are the local priorities and opportunities?

We want to hear from individuals and teams that:

  • manage land within 1km of the railway
  • deliver conservation and environmental projects
  • work with nature across the landscape

The project team wants to hear about:

  • Important habitats and species alongside and within 1km of the railway track
  • The existing management of wildlife sites within 1km of the railway, and the priorities that are being worked towards, both now and in the future
  • Opportunities for biodiversity enhancement alongside the railway, perhaps through potential habitat creation, restoration, or a change in vegetation management – how can management of the local railway amplify biodiversity outcomes across the local area?

Please use the online survey to share your knowledge about specific sites. If you would like to share details about multiple sites, or can offer landscape level insight, you may prefer to email details to

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I get involved?

Network Rail’s Biodiversity Action Plan has the potential to deliver real benefits for wildlife, for communities, and for adjacent landowners across the country.  To achieve these benefits, it relies upon the support of individuals and groups that already have knowledge of the biodiversity close to the railway, and the potential for enhancing it.

From urban parks to rural wetland, share your knowledge of the species and habitats present, of existing conservation projects close by, and the local priorities in your area, so this can be built into Network Rail’s habitat and vegetation management plans. This means local knowledge will be at the heart of routine railway maintenance and development.  What is more, projects and opportunities can be identified that might benefit from Network Rail’s support in the future.

What is Network Rail?

Network Rail is an arm’s length public body of the Department for Transport, responsible for the safe and efficient running of the railway infrastructure. The organisation is run as five regions, each with responsibility for safety, performance, and the environment.

The Eastern Region comprises four routes: East Coast Route, North & East Route, East Midlands Route, and the Anglia Route. It contains over 6,000 kilometres of track within 15,688 hectares of land. This extensive estate passes through national parks and areas of outstanding beauty amongst other environmentally protected sites, including over 60 sites of special scientific interest (SSSI).

Why has Network Rail developed a biodiversity action plan?

In 2018 the Department for Transport commissioned John Varley to produce an independent review of Network Rail’s approach to vegetation management. It concluded that while the organisation correctly focuses management objectives on safety and performance, in future it should also consider the need to benefit biodiversity and the wider environment. As one of the country’s largest public landowners, Network Rail has a leading role to play in delivering the targets stated in the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

How will the Biodiversity Action Plan be delivered in my area?

The outcomes of the Biodiversity Action Plan will be realised locally by delivering the following programme of work.

  • A stocktake of the biodiversity already present on the estate using up-to-date satellite imagery.
  • Actively seeking the assistance of local stakeholders to understand more about the wildlife and habitats associated with the railway, and any existing management taking place.
  • Seeking to understand how to best manage the lineside estate with a view to connecting habitat fragments across the landscape, through working with local partners on neighbouring land.
  • Integrating this new information with Network Rail’s existing lineside management data. This will support joined up decision making to ensure delivery of safety, performance, and biodiversity outcomes.
  • Drawing up route level action plans containing local section plans in consultation with stakeholders, neighbours, and local communities.
  • Contributing to wider conservation initiatives, such as the National Pollinator Strategy and the Local Nature Recovery Strategy.

Over the coming years, experts from within Wildlife Trust Consultancies will help Network Rail develop their own ecological expertise and embed environmental best practice into the daily work of the organisation.

What will happen with the data – who will be able to see it?

The information you provide will be processed in accordance with Network Rail’s data policy. This information will be shared with the project team and with the relevant local authority to inform the Local Nature Recovery Strategy in your area. You may be contacted for purposes related to biodiversity enhancement in your local area. More information is provided in the privacy notice.

Will Network Rail pay to access our ecological records?

Network Rail is an arm’s length public body of the Department for Transport. This means its work is funded by taxpayer’s money. As an organisation, it is committed to enhancing biodiversity across the region and recognises that the most effective way of doing so is through collaboration. It is hoped the project will be recognised as offering individuals and organisations the opportunity to inform and contribute to nature’s recovery and the health and wellbeing of the communities where they live and work.

Where ecological data is only available through a financial transaction, decisions will be made on the basis of best value.

I have a concern about some Network Rail work – how can I feed this back?

Network Rail have a number of ways in which you can get in touch including contact form, telephone, live chat, or by post. All the details can be found online at their Network Rail website.