Network Rail plants trees to deal with graffiti hotspot in South London

Network Rail is testing the use of trees as a deterrent to prevent graffiti and vandalism in Bermondsey, which is creating an unsightly mess for both passengers and local residents.

The tree planting has taken place at Bermondsey Dive Under which is a junction which sees one set of railway lines tunnel beneath another.

It is hoped that not only will the initiative stop graffiti at the site but will also save taxpayers £150,000 in the cost of cleaning over a 2-year period. The trees will also create a fantastic new habitat for local wildlife which lives around the railway.

Jon Ruch, Network Rail’s head of security, route crime and resilience for the Southern region, said:

“Our teams have been working incredibly hard over the past year or so to remove more graffiti, as we want to make the railway a more inviting place for our passengers.

“We spend around £750k per year on targeting graffiti hotspots and have cleared almost 700 sites since the start of the year right across the Southern region. Using trees to provide a screen that blocks taggers from repainting is a new approach, which is also fantastic news for the environment.

“Removing graffiti in Bermondsey has cost £150,000 over the past 2 years, and if we can stop it, that’s vital funding that we can invest into making the railway more reliable for our passengers.”

The planting took place on the 1st of July and saw Network Rail chairman, Sir Peter Hendy help to plant the last tree along with colleagues from the Southern railway region.

Graffiti Initiative at Bermondsey // Credit: Network Rail

Sir Peter commented:

“It was really good to be out with the Southern team planting trees. The security and sustainability teams have worked together with Keltbray to deliver a tree screening solution to deter future graffiti on our infrastructure. This was great to see, thanks to all involved.”

The planting marks the latest since the launch of a £1m project by Network Rail Southern region which began in April and supports local planting schemes in Kent, Sussex, South London, Surrey and Hampshire and will take place over the next three years, working alongside The Tree Council. The first year of the project aimed to see 10,000 trees and shrubs planted and this figure has already been achieved twice over, with thousands more set to be planted by 2024.

The tree planting is part of an impressive selection of sustainable initiatives being carried out such as the creation of 50 new nature reserves, railway sleepers made from recycled plastic in Wiltshire, renewable energy solutions such as new solar panels to power Denmark Hill station, vegetable oil being used as an alternative to diesel alongside enormous recycling gains.

The Southern region now recycles 80% of its waste which is an improvement of 20% when compared to 2021. Victoria station sees 90% of all waste recycled with this approach set to be rolled out at stations and depots. The rail operator’s fleet of cars will also be moved to zero-emission vehicles throughout the region, beginning with its cars in London. Network Rail also recently revealed that it is scaling up its rollout of electric vehicles as part of a trial which supports its ‘Project Zero’ which aims to see its entire road fleet electrified to achieve the Department for Transports decarbonisation target by 2027.

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