Anger over tree felling in Walthamstow

What's left of the trees lining the railway between Walthamstow Central and Wood Street
What’s left of the trees lining the railway between Walthamstow Central and Wood Street

Mature trees cut down to improve rail reliability, reports Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

People living beside railway lines in Walthamstow have criticised Network Rail for cutting down mature trees to prevent service disruptions.

Households overlooking the London Overground route between Walthamstow Central and Wood Street were told “essential vegetation management” would be done to prevent “leaves falling onto the line” and other issues.

Some expected this to mean trees would be pruned, but were horrified to see all but one or two completely removed by the rail company’s contractors.

A spokesperson for Network Rail said it needed to balance the environmental concerns in felling so many trees with the “needs and safety” of passengers.

Joy Lewis, 34, who lives off Church Lane, Walthamstow, said the land by the tracks had been “obliterated” and that she worried about the impact on wildlife.

She said: “There were so many birds and squirrels in the trees constantly and now they’re just gone. It’s really changed the feel of the place.

“I think the worst part is the communication from Network Rail. We got a letter in December but it gave no hint that this was what they were planning.

“It suggested there might be some tree felling if they were old or diseased but now every single tree apart from one or two, right up to the border, is gone.

“It just seems to have gone so far beyond what was necessary. There does not seem to have been any attempt to just trim the trees. They have taken them right down to the bottom.”

The letter from Network Rail, sent on 4th December and seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, said workers would clear vegetation up to 10 metres from the railway tracks.

It explained: “Trees and bushes can obscure signals, touch live electrical equipment, blow or fall onto tracks, undermine track foundations, or prevent our track staff having a safe place to wait while trains pass.

“This work also helps reduce leaves falling onto the line, which can affect train acceleration and braking, delaying trains during autumn months.

“We’re very aware of the impact removing trees and vegetation can have on local communities. We know this can come as a surprise to people who have got used to rows of trees or hedges near their home or workplace.”

When contacted for comment, a Network Rail spokesperson said: “We’re always balancing the needs of the environment and those who live by the railway with the needs and safety of those who rely on our railway every day. 

“Work is taking place to remove trees in this area which could fall on to the line, impact on the safety of the railway and disrupt train services. 

“We carry out this sort of maintenance on a yearly basis and our work is compliant with all the applicable environmental laws.”