At the start of National Badger Week, which this year ran from 25 June to 2 July, Network Rail has unveiled a new way of working on major upgrade projects to protect badgers living by the railway and keep the project on track.
Structures are currently being put in place between London Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria, which will carry new overhead electricity lines to make the railway more reliable for passengers, as part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan.
The structures need deep foundations to be put in place to install the gantries that support the overhead wires, work which could threaten badger setts in the area. As standard practice, an ecology survey was carried out during the early stages of the project. However, rather than using the information to apply for a licence to move the badgers, details from the survey were sent to the project team so that designers could decide where the foundations should be put so that they didn’t affect the badgers. Not only does this mean that the badgers which live alongside the railway can stay in their homes, but it also saves time and money on the project. Network Rail is now looking at how this can be used on other projects.
The usual process, when badgers are found to be living on land where work is due to take place, is to move them to a spot where the work will not affect them. This is a long process, which involves getting a licence and building new homes for them, which they don’t always settle into, and can cause significant delays to essential upgrade work and additional costs.
Adriaan Bekker, Network Rail’s environmental manager for Anglia, said: “We should always consider wildlife at the design stage and how to avoid disturbing it and avoid risks and delays to the project before construction starts. Providing design engineers with simple technical information from the environmental report has enabled them to design a railway that considered the wildlife already living around it, rather than trying to move the badgers away. This has saved a lot of time and money on the project and meant that the badgers can keep their homes.”
Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, said: "We would like congratulate Network Rail in using ecological survey information to construct railway foundations that do not threaten badgers or their setts. Being able to work at the railway design stage to avoid the need to relocate badgers is a major environmental breakthrough and cost saving, which we would like to see rolled out across the rail network."
Badgers are commonly found along the railway network and create homes in embankments and many other areas of railway land. There are occasions when routine operations, maintenance, or infrastructure project activities impact on badger territories and affect badgers in a number of ways including destruction of setts and feeding habitat, and general disturbance by noise and light.
Failure to identify or account for badger occurrence can and does cause costly delays to renewals projects and maintenance tasks and can incur a heavy fine or even a prison sentence, as they have significant legal protection in Britain, including their own Act of Parliament: the Protection of badgers Act 1992.
For more information about Badger Week or the Badger Trust go to http://www.nationalbadgerweek.org.uk/
Source: Network Rail
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