the GiGLer

The newsletter of Greenspace Information of Greater London CIC

Overground Underground

Alison Johnson, Atkins & Rebecca Smith, Metronet Rail

Alison Johnson of Atkins & Rebecca Smith of Metronet Rail explain GiGL’s fledgling relationship with Metronet – perhaps one of GiGL’s less obvious partners.

The London Underground network may not be the first place to spring to mind when you think of good wildlife habitat. But large parts of the outer reaches of the network run above ground and adjacent to a variety of trackside habitats. A recent report has confirmed that the Underground network is home to a wealth of wildlife. Badgers, water voles and grass snakes are just a few of the protected species to be found.

Metronet Rail, responsible for renewing two thirds of the London Underground network, has recently completed the most comprehensive study of biodiversity on the Underground to date. ‘Many of the species found during the survey are declining within London and the UK, and are legally protected.’ said Ewan Campbell-Lendrum, Health, Safety and Environmental Manager for the Metronet division that undertook this work. ‘The survey shows that we can play an important role in conserving and enhancing biodiversity in the capital.’ The two year study meets with the aims of the Mayor’s biodiversity strategy to provide a London-wide framework for maintaining London’s diversity of wildlife. The survey was led by ecologists from Atkins, the largest multidisciplinary consultancy in Europe. Data were collected using the same template as that used for the Greater London Authority’s open space and habitat survey.

This means that Metronet’s data are compatible with the major biodiversity dataset for London. Ric Collinson, Head of Atkins Ecology said, ‘During the first year we walked all of the overground sections to gather data on species present and identify potential areas of interest. During the second year we carried out a whole range of detailed surveys and the results are fascinating’. The findings highlight biodiversity hotspots, important for different species and habitats, as well as areas which should be targeted for habitat improvement. Stretches of rough grassland and open habitat along the District line between Dagenham Heathway and Upminster provide excellent habitat for reptiles such as common lizard, slow worm and grass snake, as well as for many insects and water voles. At the western end of the Metropolitan line are sections of locally rare grassland, while badgers have made their homes on woodland slopes.

Continuous tree-lines along the trackside provide important foraging routes for bats. Over 570 species of insect have been found across the network, six of which are nationally endangered, vulnerable or rare.

Metronet has recently launched its ‘Green Matters’ initiative, encouraging staff to think how they can minimise the organisation’s environmental footprint. Recent mitigation work has included protecting water voles and reptiles during slope stabilisation works on the District line, and stag beetle habitat creation at the western end of the Metropolitan line. Future plans include protection of badgers during track replacement works near Amersham, the creation of a wildlife pond, great crested newt habitat enhancement, and the creation of species-rich grassland alongside the Metropolitan line. The GiGL partnership has been important to the whole process – providing records of protected species, as well as up-to date information on nature conservation designations that apply to trackside and adjacent land. Metronet’s survey data, together with those records provided by other members of the GiGL partnership, information on protected species and site designations, all help to build a more complete picture of biodiversity on the London Underground network.

Once Metronet’s survey data are incorporated into GiGL’s database, the data will provide London boroughs, recorders and other interested parties with biodiversity data for land that is frequently inaccessible – helping to inform local and the regional biodiversity action plans, and future conservation work.

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