MORE than two kilometres of lineside trees and vegetation have been removed between Craigendoran and Helensburgh, in completion of a new biodiversity project.

Network Rail launched the project to improve safety and performance on the West Highland Line by reducing the impact of dangerous leaf and tree fall.

The removals will prevent unmanaged vegetation and trees from falling on to the line during poor weather conditions, as well as avoiding signals being obscured by branches and foliage.

Native trees, shrubs, and around 1,200 berry bearing plants have replaced the cleared vegetation in an effort to protect wildlife and the environment.

Kirsty Armstrong, scheme project manager, said: “While our priority is the safety and performance of the railway, this project has been planned and delivered to protect wildlife and promote biodiversity.

“We’re making positive efforts towards managing our lineside areas in a more environmentally friendly way as part of our commitment to a better, greener railway.

“We’ve taken a number of proactive steps to offset the impact of tree removal and created a mixture of habitats which support a range of species alongside the railway.

“It sets the standard for sustainable management of the lineside environment for the future.”

The work is part of Network Rail’s efforts to see no net loss of biodiversity by 2024, ahead of an overall net gain by 2035.

The new plants are said to be better suited to the railway environment due to their slow growth rate, low height and minimal leaf-fall impact.

Bat and bird boxes have also been installed to improve the availability of nesting sites along the railway, as well as habitat piles designed to offer shelter to insects and hedgehogs.

The new lineside environment will be routinely maintained by Network Rail, with the body also monitoring the biodiversity to ensure wildlife and communities are protected.