Network Rail (NR) has allowed badgers to maintain habitats along the railway line during an upgradation project in the UK.

As part of NR’s Railway Upgrade Plan, the company is improving the line between London Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria. Structures are being put in place along the route, which will carry new overhead electricity lines to make the railway more reliable for passengers

Usually, badgers living where work is to be carried out would be moved where they would not be affected. However, the process of moving badgers to new homes would require both time and money, Network Rail said in a statement.

Instead of applying for a licence to move the badgers, designers will now decide where to put the new structures based on the findings from Network Rail’s ecology survey, conducted during early stages of the project.

Network Rail’s Anglia route environmental manager Adriaan Bekker said: "We should always consider wildlife at the design stage and how to avoid disturbing it, as well as how to avoid risks and delays before construction starts.

"Designers will decide where to put new structures based on the findings of Network Rail’s ecology survey."

"Providing design engineers with simple technical information from the environmental report has enabled them to design considering the wildlife already living around it rather than trying to move the badgers away. This has saved a lot of time and money and meant that the badgers can keep their homes."

Network Rail is considering using this process on other projects.

The Badger Trust’s CEO Dominic Dyer said: "We would like to congratulate Network Rail on using ecological survey information to construct railway foundations that do not threaten badgers or their setts.

"Being able to work at the railway design stage to avoid the need to relocate badgers is a major environmental breakthrough and cost-saving, which we would like to see rolled out across the rail network."

Image: Badgers are commonly found along the railway network. Photo: © Network Rail.