Tree planting boosts biodiversity on the Wirral

VolkerRail has joined forces with Network Rail, The Tree Council and Wirral residents to plant more than 500 trees and flora near Port Sunlight station, on the Wirral.

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The project is part of a wider campaign to help Network Rail improve biodiversity beside the railway line, and forms part of the major improvement project along the Merseyrail network, ready for its new state-of-the-art trains.

As part of the major improvement works, VolkerRail has been installing new substations along the route, and upgrading the network’s cabling to help boost the power supply to power the new trains, which are due to be completed this year.

To mitigate the impact caused from the improvement works, VolkerRail worked with Network Rail and The Tree Council, creating a plan to plant low, native species hedge at the top of the embankment, and larger native trees, to provide visual screening from the railway and add net biodiversity gain to the area. This offers mitigation for local air pollution, in particular for residents of Greendale Road, where vegetation cover between the houses and the railway had been previously reduced.

This is the first time VolkerRail has worked with The Tree Council, whose aim is to care for trees and our planet’s future by planting, protecting and caring for trees and hedgerows, creating a positive and lasting change for communities.

Over five days, 520 trees were planted, including silver birch, field maple and specially grown elm trees, which are scarcely found locally. The team also planted a variety of hedge and shrub species, including hawthorn, dogwood, spindle, blackthorn, privet, hazel, and yew, all of which provide a good mix of leaf, flower and berry.

As well as providing an aesthetically pleasing view for the community, the planting of these trees and flora will help to improve wildlife habitat, providing shelter and food for a variety of animals, including bees, and reconnect lineside and embankment habitats.

Katherine Haigh, head of environment and sustainability at VolkerRail, said: “Our team has worked hard to leave a lasting legacy in Wirral, and the result of this project is a true testament to the drive of social value for our project. We understand that, whilst we enhance the rail network, local ecology can be affected, and it’s projects such as this that help us meet one of our key sustainability pillars - to protect and enhance our natural environment. We hope that the biodiversity net gain from this project adds value to the community, and we look forward to seeing local wildlife flourish in the area.

“A huge well done and thank you to everyone involved. This was a true team effort.”

Marcus Barnes, senior sponsor for Network Rail, said: “It’s great to have worked together with the local community in Port Sunlight on this major planting scheme as part of the ongoing Merseyrail upgrades. It’s important for Network Rail to balance the needs of running a safe and reliable railway with the environment. For that reason, the trees have been specifically chosen to act as a habitat and shelter for a range of wildlife, while also improving the air quality in the local area”.

Sara Lom, CEO for The Tree Council, said: "The Tree Council is proud to have supported this project, to establish trees and hedgerows along the Greendale Road rail side. Through thoughtful planning and close liaison with the local community and Network Rail operational teams, we were able to deliver a project which will reconnect wildlife habitats, improve air quality and provide visual screening between the rail line and homes. The project demonstrates what can be achieved when we work together for the love of trees."

Patricia Hosie, from Port Sunlight Village Community, said: “This new tree scheme has given the residents a huge uplift, to not only address the impact of the initial felling works but to create a scheme that further improves the environment, not only for the present but for the future generations.

“For residents, the replanting hails a new era, particularly during this last year, when never before has it been so important for our mental wellbeing to view pleasant greenery in the knowledge that the environment is improved by the planting, and that wildlife will flourish in the trees and the undergrowth.”