Crossrail and Network Rail offer rapid transport for wildlife

Whether it is wild orchids, reptiles or giant eels, all have been given new homes thanks to Network Rail following the start of its works on behalf of Crossrail in the Stockley Junction area in West London.

Before work began on the Stockley Interchange in late March, which will allow Crossrail services to operate to and from Heathrow Airport, ecological surveys had identified locations of protected and invasive fauna. An initial relocation of reptiles and amphibians took place in advance of the construction works to avoid delays to the project.

Then, as construction began, the rescue operation really kicked into gear as Network Rail, together with contractor Carillion, aquatic consultants and the Environment Agency, cleared and lowered nearby Anderson Pond. It was then electro-fished, a technique which temporarily stuns fish, allowing them to be surveyed and returned to the water unharmed.

A total of 599 fish were safely caught and relocated to a new home. Species found included tench, roach, rudd and bream, all of which were held in an aerated tank to recover before their relocation to Pondwood Fisheries near Maidenhead.

The real catch of the day, however, was a European eel, which is a critically endangered species. It weighed an exceptional 5lbs and came in at 3ft long. It takes about 10 years for an eel to put on a pound so this one could be 50 years old.

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Wild orchids

Meanwhile, 30 wild orchids were saved and relocated to similar habitat at Maple Lodge Nature Reserve.

Courtesy of the Maple Lodge Conservation Society, Network Rail moved the plants to their new home in Hertfordshire where they can be protected but also enjoyed by the public.

All this good work was preceded by relocating 46 protected slow-worms, 593 newts and five frogs from the Stockley area to new homes in August last year, following consultation with the London Borough of Hillingdon.

Michaela Payne, environment specialist at Network Rail, said: “Our Network Rail Crossrail Programme has set a target of no net loss for biodiversity. To this end the work we have done at Stockley will ensure that the biodiversity in the local area is protected and enhanced for the community. Delivering these works will have a lasting legacy of both improvements to the railway infrastructure and enhancements to the natural environment.

“This underlines the commitment that the project team has made to the delivery of sustainable development.”