The report's recommendations
Moving forward, the review made six broad recommendations, detailed in the final report:
1. The Government must set out a clear policy for Network Rail in terms of delivering for the environment.
2. Appropriate governance must be put in place at organisation, route and project level.
Whilst Network Rail:
3. Should publish an ambitious vision for the lineside estate.
4. Must value and manage its lineside estate as an asset.
5. Must improve its communications with communities and key stakeholders.
6. Should lead a cultural change for valuing nature and the environment across the organisation.
We find little to complain about in these! What’s more, the Department of Transport has accepted all of the report’s recommendations, and Network Rail has agreed to create a plan to put them into action.
We now need to make sure that the recommendations are put into practice. We will be lobbying hard to make sure that happens – any works affecting biodiversity should leave it in a better state than before (the principle of ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’).
In particular we will be fighting the case for trees, because within the Government’s own commitment to net gain for biodiversity (to be achieved by 2040) there is a particular risk.
There is an idea that habitats are swappable – that you can replace “low quality” woodland with “high quality” grassland. This reduction of nature to a mere species count is of course a gross simplification that we simply don’t accept.
The focus must be firmly on canopy cover – it’s not just the trees we’re interested in but all the other wildlife they support and the way they connect landscapes.
We will hold Government to account on the findings of the Varley Review, and expect other organisations identified in the report to do likewise.
Network Rail certainly faces challenges in managing its estate, but it must do more to provide a network that’s safe for its staff and customers, while still delivering for biodiversity.
Your voice makes a difference
Finally, we want to thank thousands of our supporters who helped to influence the review by responding to the online consultation. We know that your input made a huge contribution to the outcome. Hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy more wildlife-friendly train journeys as a result!
But this isn’t the only railway-related challenge our trees and woods face. The latest HS2 plans have revealed at least 19 ancient woods could be destroyed. Stand up for this irreplaceable habitat and say no to the plans. Join our campaign and defend these precious woods.