Network Rail have inherited a habitat next to the railway that is surprisingly large. Nationwide their green estate runs alongside over 7000 miles of track and borders 7 million homes. For a number of historical and ecological reasons, this semi-natural habitat is very prone to invasion by Japanese knotweed.
South Wales is the region worst affected by Japanese knotweed in Britain
Maesteg was the first location in the British Isles where the plant escaped into the wild, in 1880, having first been imported as an ornamental plant and then distributed by botanic gardens.
Fast forward to 2018 and two Maesteg homeowners have bought a joined case against Network Rail concerning the treatment of Japanese knotweed — the Williams and Waistell v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd case was the focus of significant press coverage and bought into focus the complexities and problems of Japanese knotweed treatment at the strategic scale.
The Williams and Waistell v Network Rail Infrastructure case set a new precedent in Japanese knotweed liability relevant to all large landowners
Our client, Network Rail Cymru Wales, came to us needing a clear plan for knotweed management, centred on herbicide treatment undertaken by their own staff. They wanted standalone treatment recommendations from an independent consultancy, who weren’t trying to pitch them on a preferred method or sell them a ‘knotweed control’ product.
Our strategy provided a complete set of knotweed treatment protocols and a simple, clearly designed ‘tree’ for working through the various decisions about how and when to apply different treatments. In addition, a full specification of PPE and product recommendations was also given.
Successful long-term knotweed management means combining an intelligent selection of treatments with a clear framework for making decisions
The work with the Wales Route effectively creates a new best practice toolkit for managing knotweed on the railways. There's a lot more to do and we are discussing how to implement this approach on other routes right across the network.
Overall, the knotweed treatment strategy in combination with a sister toolkit of public relations work aims to harmonise the different approaches to knotweed management and provide a skeleton for more informed decision-making.
Given the legal implications of the knotweed treatment strategy a crucial aspect of the project is that all our the recommendations are supported with the long-term dataset of our multi-year field trial.