Case Studies – Railway Weed Control

Rail side tree removal at Crewe IEMD

This work, carried out for EWS (English Welsh and Scottish Railways) at their Crewe IEMD (International Electric Maintenance Depot) was for the removal of tall trees next to the rail line which were impeding access and could potentially damage the overhead electric lines.

The work was carried out over 1½ days during a weekend isolation of the line, so as to cause minimal disruption. Three filling and chipping teams were assigned to ensure that the work was completed well within the time allowed. The trees were felled under careful control to prevent any damage to the electrical structures. All the smaller cut material was chipped on site and larger logs removed.

The before and after shots above show how effectively this site has now been opened up and made safe by our skilled operators.

For further details of the services we can offer, please contact us.


New vehicle for railway weed control

Weedfree Limited in partnership with Aquarius Railroad Technologies are now offering a new custom-built rail spraying system mounted on a Rail Canter 4WD road-rail vehicle. This combination is ideal for private railway lines, rail heads, tram systems, heritage railways and other areas not covered by the existing national rail weed control programmes. Much faster and safer than hand spraying, and more reliable than previous Land Rover + Trailer combinations, the Canter is a real step forward in terms of speed and efficiency, and can work at night, minimizing the inconvenience of rail closures. First clients for the new vehicle in 2007 include the Northern Irish rail network, and the Wensleydale Railway in North Yorkshire. Features of the Rail Canter spraying vehicle include:

  • 18.5 mile spray capability at full application spray rate (standard calibration)
  • Proven vehicle track safety and reliability
  • High ground clearance and 4 x 4 drive enabling easy access and rail mounting
  • Hi visibility from the cab
  • Individual feed lines to spray nozzles with in line filtration
  • Individual nozzle spray controls giving ability to customize spray pattern
  • Hand lance for obstacle treatment


Before and after rail weed clearance projects

Weedfree Limited carries out weed control and de-vegetation works to the UK, Ireland and mainland European rail networks. 

Our teams control weeds and clear vegetation in stations, sidings and depots as well main line and line side areas.

Together with our in house protection staff and RIMINI planning team all rail works are completed by our own PTS trained staff.  

Our staff hold a wide range of competencies including the use of strimmers, chippers, chainsaws at height and the safe application of pesticides. 

We operate a 24/7 Control Centre and can supply teams at short notice if required to fit in with closures and emergency works. 

We can provide solutions for invasive weeds such as Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed, for woody weeds such as Buddleia and for tree cutting or felling operations. Arisings can be chipped on site or completely removed for disposal. 

Contact us for site specific recommendations and treatment plans.


Weedfree Win Network Rail National Hand Spray Contract

Weed control on the main railway lines in the UK is carried out using dedicated Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPV’s), but these can not cover every part of the network, and areas such as station bays, sidings and wide ways require treatment by teams of knapsack operators working on foot.

Until 2007 Weedfree had been carrying out the majority of this work as a sub-contractor under independent management appointed by Network Rail. Following a competitive tender process in 2007 Weedfree was awarded all but the Scottish territory, contracting directly to Network Rail. After a further competitive tender process this year Weedfree has been awarded the hand spraying of the entire rail network in England, Scotland and Wales for 2008, with an option to extend to 2009.

The award of this contract is recognition of our excellent record, full national coverage and top level certification for pesticide application and rail safety.

As our teams will now be visiting all major railway stations in Great Britain during the campaign, Weedfree are now able to offer regular weed control services for station platforms, walkways, car parks, depots and sidings at competitive rates to train operating companies, rail freight operators and rail infrastructure contractors anywhere in the country. We also provide weed control services to light rail and tram systems, heritage railways, private sidings and industrial rail heads.

Current UK railway weed control clients include Bombardier, BOC, Chevron Texaco, Corus, DHL, EWS, First ScotRail, Grant Rail, Jarvis, Blackpool Trams, Docklands Light Railway, Snowdon Mountain Railway and Wensleydale Railway amongst many others.

For further details of the services we can offer, please contact us.


Railway Vegetation Control

The main lines and “cess” (the area of ballast and open ground up to 3 metres from the running lines) on the UK main line railways are kept clear of weed growth by a regular programme of applications of total herbicides using specialist rail vehicles, known as Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPV’s).

This still leaves a problem in many places with larger vegetation – trees, bushes and scrub – growing too close to the line and causing problems due to obscuring sight lines to signals, preventing access for maintenance teams and potential damage to rolling stock and overhead lines. The object here is not to reduce everything to bare earth, which as well as impacting on biodiversity and aesthetic value would increase the risk of soil erosion in cuttings and on embankments, but to maintain a grassy strip with no large trees or bushes within 5-6 metres of the line (known as the “flail strip”).

Works Infrastructure, based in Rotherham, are currently engaged to Network Rail in the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire area for an extensive rolling programme of vegetation control over hundreds of miles of main line track.

In the winter of 2007-2008 Weedfree Limited worked as a sub-contractor to Works Infrastructure, providing teams of rail-qualified operators including chainsaw, strimmer and chipper operators as well as specialist tree climbers and rail protection staff to clear the “flail strip” vegetation on a large section of line near Immingham. The before and after pictures on this page give an idea of the scale and quality of the work carried out.

For further details of the services we can offer, please contact us.