Network Rail is working with ecologists to carry out an extensive study into what impact the new railway upgrade between Oxford and Bedford will have on the local environment, paying particular attention to a rare species of bat known to roost in the local area.
Experts from Network Rail’s environmental team have been out at dusk and dawn, trapping and tagging bats at key areas along the project route. The aim is to understand whether or not some very rare Bechstein’s bat, known to roost in the Sheephouse wood/Bernwood Estate area near Aylesbury are also present in other areas of the scheme.
The project team has already carried out extensive studies including watching surveys at potential roosts and the use of automatic ‘listening’ bat detectors.
Lucie Anderton, senior environment manager for Network Rail said: “Simply from recording their calls, we already have a good understanding of the numbers and types of bats that use the existing rail corridor and surrounding habitat, however some species can only be identified by trapping them
“We are very interested to find out if any of the rare Bechstein’s bats are present outside the Sheephouse/Bernwood area. These bats are associated particularly with ancient woodland habitats and so the trapping surveys are very focused.”
East West Rail aims to improve the east-west connectivity through improved public transport in order to support economic growth, prosperity and employment in the area and to introduce faster and more reliable train services between Oxford, Cambridge and East Anglia.
So far, Noctule, Natterers, Daubenton’s and Common Pipistrelle bats have been tagged and surveys are now being paused due to the female bats being heavily pregnant or having pups in their maternity roost. The surveys will continue later in the summer.
The surveys will help the East West Rail engineering team understand how the project might affect bats and also help design mitigation to ensure their population in the area continues to thrive.
Source: Network Rail