CALLS have been made to stop work to fell trees next to a railway track after a section of woodland was stripped from an embankment.

Network Rail has been carrying out work to clear trees from Redhills Cutting, a stretch of track between Redhills, in Durham, and the western edge of the city.

The body, which is responsible for maintaining railway infrastructure, says the trees removed were leaning precariously and posed a potential risk to the East Coast Main Line.

But people living nearby are concerned the scale of work is disproportionate after “dozens” or trees, thought to number more than 100, were removed.

John Pacey, of Railway Cottages, said: “A decent amount of cutback is fine but what they’ve done is remove trees at a high level, which provide the best possible protection and benefit to those who live nearby. “They’ve stripped the whole bank from top to bottom.”

He added: “What’s happened has happened. The concern is the same sort of devastation could happen to the rest of the cutting.”

Richard Braithwaite, another neighbour, said: “I understand they need to make the line safe. No-one argues with that but they’ve blitzed the area.”

The matter has now been taken up by Durham’s parish council, which is asking for a review into whether the work is needed to ensure safety on the line.

It is understood trees have also been cut down by the track in nearby Langley Moor.

Cllr Jonathan Elmer said the issue is part of a nationwide operation to fell thousands of trees next to railway lines around the country.

He said: “There are lots of issues with felling trees. They reduce noise so people living near aren’t disturbed.

“The biodiversity impact is enormous because they form wildlife corridors which enable wildlife to move around the country.”

He added: “We quickly realised we are completely powerless to get it stopped. In fact no-one does have that power.

“What we have tried to do is challenge the idea that this is being done for health and safety reasons and we have written to Roberta Blackman-Woods asking her to raise the matter in Parliament and ask the Environmental Minister to review what is being contracted and ask questions about whether this is needed for safety or is there a bigger agenda?”

Describing the work as “utterly disproportionate”, the letter says: “City of Durham Parish Council are concerned that this change in practice is primarily driven by the desire to reduce tree maintenance costs, and that health and safety forms a convenient vehicle to side-lone opposition.”

Cllr Elizabeth Scott said: “It’s pretty brutal really so we’re keen to raise awareness.”

A spokesperson for Network Rail, which says no further work is planned, said: “Encroaching vegetation and fallen leaves on the line can lead to significant delays for the 4.6m people who use and rely on the railway every day.

“We have well thought out standards and policies that help us balance the safety of passengers with the needs of the environment.”

“We continue to work alongside communities and experts in the field, including the Tree Council, to minimise the impact of our vegetation management while ensuring the continued safe operation of the railway.”