Monday, July 4, 2016

Rail Group Demonstrates the Way to Protect Nature Whilst Saving Money and Boosting Logistics

Overhead Gantry Scheme Tailored to Protect Badgers
Shipping News Feature
UK – The freight and logistics industry has often caused immense environmental problems when acting to try and serve the needs of a world with a rapidly expanding population. Whilst some countries, and those international companies working there, have demonstrated a singular lack of conscience when dealing with wildlife, the UK has recently shown sympathy with various flora and fauna disturbed by its development. London Gateway the new, deep water port on the Thames was subject to intensive environmental studies prior to work starting with thousands of creatures moved to alternative homes, and owners DP World have invested heavily in ensuring as little disturbance as possible occurred, whilst still standing accused of its dredging causing potential problems to fish stocks.

The badger holds a special place in the British psyche and the latest actions of Network Rail demonstrate the correct way these creatures deserve to be treated. As with all such works, installing new overhead gantries along the main rail line between London Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria meant deep foundations needed to be dug using heavy machinery. Railway lines provide a haven for many badgers as more land in the surrounding areas become subject to development of one sort or another.

Although not actually endangered, the badger’s popularity has assured that it is amongst the most protected of all British creatures. Under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 it is illegal to injure, kill, capture or dig for the animals nor can one disturb a badger sett which is occupied. Network Rail would have had to build alternative, underground accommodation for every family of badgers within an ‘active’ sett, a both lengthy and costly process, so another solution was sought.

After an intensive survey all the sett sites were identified allowing the designers to work around the badgers accommodation in what Network Rail described as a ‘win-win’ solution, saving both time and money while the badgers can keep their homes and thus defining an approach which will deliver savings when used on similar projects rolled out in the future. 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.”

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, commended Network Rail’s consideration and called for this kind of wildlife-friendly approach to be adopted across the industry saying:

“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.”

When the government introduced its controversial cull of badgers three years ago it produced a backlash which included over 300,000 people signing a formal petition against it, the largest ever at the time. Whilst the National Farmers Union (NFU) blames badgers for the spread of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) over a twenty year period, this theory is by no means universally agreed upon, even by the government’s own scientific advisers. The rise in the cattle disease, which can be passed to humans as well as sheep, goats etc., coincides with the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak which saw thousands of untested cattle brought into the UK, and uncontrolled cattle movements between farms.

Photo: Courtesy of John Harper and the Essex Badger Protection Group.