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TOPIC: NETWORK RAIL

David Burrowes calls for NR to be held to account 6 years 10 months ago #77

  • helen
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David Burrowes joined calls last Wednesday for Network Rail to be properly held to account and required to conduct environmental impact assessments and local consultations when carrying our major infrastructure and vegetation management projects.

Mr Burrowes spoke in a debate on the subject, which he claims affects an “A to Z” of victims throughout the country. He stated that “Network Rail is a prolific and persistent offender” whose responsibilities must be to “mitigate safety and protect the wider local environment”.

The MP cited examples from his own constituency of Enfield Southgate, where Winchmore Hill was an early victim and Grange Park a most unfortunate victim in the rail provider’s “environmental vandalism and neglect”. Mr Burrowes further suggested that Network Rail was neglecting its “duty of care to local residents and the local environment”.

Grange Park has experienced destruction of a great swathe of trees and natural habitat way beyond the area that may affect the safety of the railway lines.
In Winchmore Hill, the policy of vegetation management was exploited to fell tress and natural habitats along the railway embankment.

In a letter to Mr Burrowes in June 2011, David Higgins, Chief Executive of Network Rail, showed respect and concern, stating that:

“Network Rail takes its social responsibilities seriously. Clearly there are lessons we can learn about how we engage with communities when we need to undertake intrusive works. Although consultation in formal terms is not practicable as we will often have little room to digress from the engineering solution being proposed, many misunderstandings can be obviated through early community engagement.”

However, Mr Burrowes emphasised that no lessons have been learned by the company, and he is concerned that Network Rail is hiding behind its statutory responsibility of mitigating safety risks on the line. Up and down the country problems continue, with Network Rail not needing to consult with residents about maintenance work. This is not conducive to protecting the local environment, or to Network Rail being open and honest about its plans.

Mr Burrowes concluded by reiterating that National Rail has not taken its responsibilities to the local environment and local communities seriously, asking “whether Network Rail should be subject to environmental impact assessments” and requesting that the matter is brought out “into the open, to ensure that we have a proper process of consultation, information and care for the environment”.
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Re: NETWORK RAIL 6 years 10 months ago #78

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A tweet reports that Network Rail have been told it's illegal to cut down vegetation. No confirmation yet but sounds hopeful. Though it can't be illegal for them to cut down ANY vegetation.
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Re: NETWORK RAIL 6 years 10 months ago #81

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The Drayton Park demolition has made it into the Telegraph - see www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/93904...-nesting-season.html

The BritishTransport Police have been looking into it and have now sent a file to the DPP, even though they found “all correct procedures had been followed with no crimes of disturbing nesting birds taking place”.
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Re: NETWORK RAIL 6 years 10 months ago #83

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David Burrowes contribution to the Early Day Motion has now been published.
Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): I want to make just a few comments. This is very much the debate of the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), and we want to hear from the Minister.

People up and down the country have been asking that very same thing: how can we properly hold Network Rail to account? In my constituency, vegetation management—a euphemism employed in relation to the Winchmore Hill embankment—was used to fell trees and habitat. Network Rail was only really cajoled into doing any assessment in relation to the bats in one of the trees. That was the only statutory obligation to do any kind of formal environmental assessment. That happened repeatedly.

I got assurances that the company would consult, and notify me of any further works on the lines, and then—lo and behold—Grange Park suffered huge environmental destruction. The area is called Grange Park, but the word “park” might as well be taken away considering what happened. It is extraordinary and desperate how ancient trees were felled, never to be replaced. One can see only the visible destruction of the trees, but natural habitat was also lost. People’s view was completely destroyed by Network Rail’s actions.

After public meetings and a lot of cajoling and hard work on the part of active residents and myself, the new Network Rail chief executive, David Higgins, took his responsibility seriously and met with me for a long time. It is a credit to him that he showed respect and concern, accepted what had happened and apologised. He stated in a letter to me in June 2011:

“Network Rail takes its social responsibilities seriously. Clearly there are lessons we can learn about how we engage with communities when we need to undertake intrusive works. Although consultation in formal terms is not practicable as we will often have little room to digress from the engineering solution being proposed, many misunderstandings can be obviated through early community engagement.”

Those are good words, but sadly we have seen since that lessons have not been learned. That continues up and down the line, in London and beyond. Whitstable is a recent example. There has been great concern about what has happened there.

My concern is that Network Rail is hiding behind its statutory responsibilities—its operational licence responsibility—to mitigate safety risks. In earlier correspondence from the community relationships manager, it stated:

“we have to mitigate safety risks. Therefore most of the work we undertake does not require consultation. However, we consult with local authorities and statutory bodies when working within or near particular sites; such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

The company can hide behind such words and not accept its duty of care to local residents and the local environment. That is what happened in the case of Grange Park, Winchmore Hill and other places.

We need to do better. Network Rail has responsibilities to the public, the taxpayers and, yes, to rail passengers, as well as to the local environment, but it has not taken those responsibilities seriously. It has mitigated some of the issues in Grange Park and it has helped to plant some native shrubs, but it cannot undo what has happened and it cannot provide true restoration and restitution. It has come grudgingly to the table but it needs to do a whole lot more. We need to see it being held to account.

We also want to see whether Network Rail should be subject to environmental impact assessments, because of what my constituents had to suffer. There was a major infrastructure project, so I ask the Minister the following question: please can we bring it out into the open, to ensure that we have a proper process of consultation, information and care for the environment?

4.45 pm

...

Earlier intervention in the same debate

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on obtaining the debate, which could be packed out because, sadly, there is an “A to Z” of victims throughout the country. In my patch, Winchmore Hill was among the first victims. After an experience similar to his, we were assured of notice, but notice was not given, so Grange Park has become one of the most unfortunate victims of what I call Network Rail’s environmental vandalism and neglect of the local environment, with the destruction of a great swathe of trees and natural habitat—way beyond the immediate area concerned with mitigating safety risks.

I understand that there is no legal requirement on Network Rail to consult with residents on maintenance work, because it is just part of the operational licence to mitigate safety risks. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we need properly to protect the local environment and to ask the Minister how we can ensure that Network Rail is held properly to account, and is open and honest about its plans? It is a prolific and persistent offender that needs to be brought to account. We must ensure that its responsibilities are, yes, to mitigate safety, but also to protect the wider local environment.

Jeremy Corbyn: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and I understand his concern. I have seen the railside areas in Winchmore Hill, which are a fantastic reserve for natural life and should be protected and preserved.
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Re: NETWORK RAIL 6 years 10 months ago #84

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Network Rail were stopped at the last minute (last minute because they'd only given 12 hours notice!) from carrying out further vandalism in Islington. For the full story see www.islingtongazette.co.uk/news/greens_r...sting_site_1_1443430
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Formal Request for an Inquiry Select Committee 6 years 9 months ago #94

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Letter to Louise Ellman, Chair of the Commons Transport Select Committee

Dear Ms Ellman,

On 13th June this year, Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington, sponsored Early Day Motion 199:-

NETWORK RAIL AND THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

That this House is deeply concerned at the insensitive behaviour of Network Rail towards the natural environment, nesting birds, the local community and Islington Borough Council; notes its unannounced clearing of vegetation adjacent to the railway lines in north Islington near to the Arsenal stadium and the Gillespie Park Nature Reserve; further notes that this is an important wildlife corridor which enhances the ecology of London as a whole; further notes despairingly that Network Rail did not fulfill undertakings given in September 2011 to work with local communities and the local authority before undertaking vegetation works; expects Network Rail to realise the meanings of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in protecting our natural environments including nesting birds; and is astonished at its behaviour in respect of this recent incident.

On 27th June there followed a 30 minute parliamentary debate, which was especially welcome to those communities up and down the country who have experienced excessive tree and vegetation clearances, (often unannounced and under the cover of night), as part of a general clearance programme set, by the company’s own admission, to destroy an area the size of the Forest of Dean. (24.5 sq miles).

There have been many parliamentary debates on this issue, most notably nine years ago on 3rd June 2003, however, as I am sure you are aware, Network Rail’s curious legal status means that the company is wholly unaccountable to ministers and only partly accountable to the ORR (for finance). Surely in a democracy such a situation cannot be allowed to continue?

Network Rail almost invariably uses the issue of safety to justify the urgency of clearance work. Where it finds itself challenged by considerable local protest, as in Whitstable in May this year, Network Rail is forced to defer work for several months with no resultant threat to rail safety. Despite policy statements to the contrary, the company still refuses to engage properly in Whitstable, and with other communities, local MPs and government ministers over this issue. Network Rail persistently ignores attempts at consultation and scrutiny, refusing to respond to questions or release data.

We represent the many communities who have suffered the permanent loss of important wildlife habitat and screening from passing trains as a result of Network Rail's tree and undergrowth clearance and ask now whether your Parliamentary Select Committee would be willing to undertake a short inquiry into the company’s conduct in this matter. We can provide you with supporting information, including evidence which challenges Network Rail’s technical rationale. We will also be contacting two other select committees.

I look forward to hearing from you and would be more than happy to provide any further information you might require to help you reach a decision.

Yours sincerely,

Julie Wassmer
(for Whitstable Residents' Campaign Group)

Francis Windle
(for Grange Park and Winchmore Hill, London N21)

John Soulsby
(for Rickmansworth, Herts)

Kelly Oakley
(for Bescot, Walsall)

John Fletcher
(for Dronfield Civic Society, Derbyshire)

Michelle Dexter-Smith
(for King's Lynn, Norfolk)
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