ScotRail has an annual commitment to fund biodiversity improvement or research projects. As Nicole Tyson, ScotRail’s Sustainability Manager, notes there are successes and challenges in helping improve biodiversity.
“In year one we worked with our Station Adopters to provide training and funding for projects at stations. Through this we created wildflower meadows, installed bug hotels, and planted native shrubs and fruit trees.
“We have some fantastic projects at stations, but recognised that we were limited in what we could do alone. Working with other organisations gave us the opportunity to widen the impact of our projects.
“Our partnership with RSPB means we can tie in with bigger conservation projects and benefit from their excellent and extensive network of contacts with community groups.
“During the 30th anniversary celebrations of the Glasgow Garden Festival ScotRail funded work with RSPB partners and community groups to promote biodiversity and provide training and guidance.
“RSPB managed a Pledge for Nature Legacy Fund where community groups could apply for funding of biodiversity projects involving local schools. Six projects received funding. Black Devon Wetlands, an RSPB reserve, was granted funding for biodiversity improvement. This included the creation of native hedgerows.
“Elsewhere we have been working in partnership with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) for three years on a number of projects. At Yoker Depot in Glasgow we had a huge amount of greenspace that was mostly mown grass. We saw an opportunity to improve the space, and create a more wildlife friendly environment. Work parties from TCV removed areas of turf and sowed native wildflower meadows, planted native shrubs and fruit trees and they also built a pond. We reduced mowing to an annual cut and lift.
“Fair to say there have been lots of lessons learned from this project; we had a mild spell when the seeds were sown and they germinated, but then died during the cold winter. These were later replaced by plug plants and the area re-sown and we now have a wide variety of wildflowers.
“Staff at the depot expected to see an immediate impact from the project and this isn’t the case with new meadows so in future projects we included a bit of planting that was attractive right away
“The pond didn’t do well in the first year and it seems it is too shaded in its position. We are considering removing a non-native conifer to allow more light in.
“One big success of the project is the reduction in mowing. It’s a really simple way of improving habitat. Within the grass there was already lots of wildflowers such as vetch and Bird’ foot trefoil and we now have field voles on site who appreciate the long grass!
“We have biodiversity improvement projects at three of our Engineering Depots. Some of these are in very industrial areas with very little green space. However, here we focussed on planting in raised beds and hanging baskets. TCV used mostly recycled materials; wood washed up on a beach, unused materials found in the depot, to allow planting of native wildflowers and shrubs. This will provide some foraging and shelter for passing insects and birds in an area that previously would have had no attraction.
“We are learning as we go along from our successes and failures. We are currently trialling reduced mowing at some of our stations and hope to roll this out next year. As railway lines are wildlife corridors already, we can hopefully provide some helpful resources for the pollinators travelling through.”