NETWORK Rail has been criticised for extensive felling along the Dorchester to Weymouth rail line.

Dorchester Town Council is to write to the rail operator to complain about the way the operation has been carried out on the embankement between Maumbury Rings and Monmouth Road.

It says that the widescale cutting back of the trees, either side of the  approach to the South Station, is detrimental to the town’s climate emergency plans and if the operator repeated the blanket cutting elsewhere, would also be damaging to the country’s ecology.

A copy of the letter will also be sent to the West Dorset MP, Chris Loder, asking for his support.

Town councillors on the authority’s planning committee say they are also upset about the quantity of litter which the felling exposed – not all of which has been removed.

Said town council planning committee chairman Robin Potter: “We were all cross with Network Rail because they have taken down all the trees which are good for climate change. We have resolved to ask if this was necessary…if they are doing it all over the country it will contribute to climate change.

“We also think they did not need to be quite so vicious in the way they have cut them back.” In some places the trees have been felled to within a few feet of their roots which no branches remaining.

Cllr Potter says had the company consulted the town council before starting the operation it could have advised where it might have been wise to fell trees and areas where they were not likely to present any nuisance.

Network Rail say that trees are only cut, where necessary, for operational reasons to improve safety and that the work is usually carried out early in the year to avoid disturbing nesting birds.

The Bournemouth to Weymouth line has been brought to a halt several times this winter because of falled trees, or limbs and branches from trees.

Said a Network Rail spokesman: "Vegetation management was carried out to protect the railway from fallen trees that cause delays and to prevent leaves on the track that can make it harder for trains to stop in autumn. It is also done for safety reasons to ensure drivers can clearly see signals and passengers on level crossings.

“Sadly, flytipping and littering is prevalent in the area.  The team removed a significant volume of material that had been illegally left on railway land, however some still remains. Further work has been put on hold during the Covid 19 pandemic, and will be removed at a later date.”