In the summer 2015 UES carried out a number of preliminary ecological appraisals (PEA) along the railway lines in Staffordshire. The surveys were part of Network Rail’s maintenance de-vegetation works along the embankments and sidings.

The PEAs identified a number of ecological issues along the mileages. The main concerns included badgers, breeding birds, bats and invasive species, which could be affected during the de-vegetation works. UES methodically set out the issues and mitigation actions against their locations (GPS references and mileage), and GIS maps were produced.

During one of the surveys the rare flowering Pale St-John’s-wort (Hypericum montanum) was discovered on the railway siding, just south of Stafford (132 miles 66 chain). The plant is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ in England and according to BSBI it is only the 3rd recording of the species in Staffordshire since 1945. The plant grows in scrub, woodland and rough grassland especially where gravel or sandy soil lies on top of chalk substrate.

Other unusual chalk-loving species found in the siding included Pale Toadflax (Linaria repens), Burnet Saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifrage), Blue Fleabane (Erigeron acer) and Fern Grass (Catapodium rigidum). Also found during the surveys was Common Cudweed (Filago vulgaris), a plant which can occur in heath grassland, embankments and disturbed ground. This is actually a misnomer; the plant is not so common and is also listed as a “Near-Threatened” species.

UES staff are currently undergoing to training in order to secure their personal track safety (PTS) qualifications. UES are being sponsored by Utility Arb Solutions Ltd, a Network Rail approved company, who we have worked for on various projects.