RAIL passengers travelling along the Kettering and Market Harborough line may have noticed a brighter route since VMS started its biodiversity enhancement on the Midland Main Line electrification.

VMS specialises in vegetation management and habitat improvement, and working for client SPL on behalf of Network Rail has not only created a safe corridor for the electrified railway but reinstated a wildlife habitat with a minimum 10-per-cent uplift on what was previously found there.

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Requiring a vegetation clearance of 6.5 m from the tracks for safety purposes, scrubby undergrowth has been cut back. But where traditionally these branches would have been chipped and returned to the ground adjacent to the rails, VMS has adopted a new approach.

Managing director Rob Mallett said: “We adopt a ‘real world’ approach to our ecological works to provide solutions to our clients whilst observing current best practice and legislation.

“This material when spread as woodchippings on-site can encourage bramble and other undesirable species to grow, smothering higher value habitat species such as grassland and wildflowers, so now it goes off to biomass.

“The cleared ground can now sustain grassland which is encouraged through a unique maintenance regime that will grow into a lush swathe which can also be seeded with wildflowers to form an enhanced environment, but which essentially does not grow too tall for its trackside position.

Forestry Journal:

“The key thing for me is that I am putting something back. In the past you’d just have miles of woodchip spread out, whereas with our change of approach you are creating good, high-value wildlife habitat.

“Just recently one of our teams came across over 100 metres of Viola riviniana – common dog violet – growing just two metres from the running rail. This plant is very important for several fritillary butterflies because they lay their eggs on it.”

VMS has its own in-house ecologists, all full PTS holders, who are able to undertake ecological assessments, surveys, and reports through to providing watching briefs where required.

For more information, visit VMS's website