NETWORK Rail plan to fence in the entire length of Saddleworth’s train track, the Independent can reveal.
Contractors have already returned to continue their removal of trees and vegetation along the TransPennine route six weeks after rail minister Jo Johnson asked Network Rail to suspend all work except in safety critical circumstances.
News of the escalation in work emerged after a public meeting in Uppermill organised by campaigners opposed to the erection of an 800 feet metal barrier in the Den Lane conservation area in Uppermill.
A petition against the fence – described by locals as a “monstrosity” – has been signed by 462 people urging Network Rail to re-site the fence closer to the track.
Network Rail officials at the Civic Hall meeting indicated once funding was in place more fencing would be erected alongside the line which runs from Diggle through Uppermill and Greenfield into Mossley and Stalybridge.
Responding to the Independent’s question about further fencing, a spokesperson for Network Rail said: “Yes, there will be fencing installed along the route.
“Teams from Network Rail will assess the type of fencing which is needed in each location.
“Fencing needs to be installed for safety, to reduce the risk of people trespassing on the tracks and protecting members of the public, drivers and those travelling on trains.”
Saddleworth currently has a mish-mash of fence designs as well as non-existent ones at certain sections of the line.
Saddleworth South councillor Jamie Curley said: “There is no sign of any consultation, either with Saddleworth Parish Council, ward councillors or the community.
“Network Rail obviously have a tin ear for what the public want.
“I would want to see some consultation before anything further is done.”
Fellow OMBC and Saddleworth councillor Graham Sheldon called the move to install more fencing “outrageous”.
Cllr Adrian Alexander, chair of the Saddleworth and Lees Partnership Executive, has written to Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport and Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Cllr Alexander said: “Although this matter is currently directly effecting residents of Saddleworth and Oldham, I am also extremely concerned this approach is resulting in the destruction of similar environments and visual amenity across the country.”
Cllrs Sheldon and Derek Heffernan, former Mayor of Oldham, attended the public meeting together with protestors, press and members of the public.
A site meeting took place at Den Lane and now Network Rail says: “The team at the event have taken on board feedback and are considering the request to relocate and paint the fence, in addition to planting ivy.”
Overnight operations to remove vegetation started at the end of last month.
It will continue on July 7-8 (11pm -8am), on July 9-13 (11am-7am) and on July 14-15 (11pm-8am).
Network Rail insisted: “Network Rail will notify residents two weeks prior to any vegetation work taking place.
“There will also be some further public drop-in events on a case by case basis.”
Network Rail staff were also criticised at the Civic Hall meeting for taking unsolicited photographs.
“Filming permission isn’t actually required at a public meeting in a public place,” insisted the Network Rail spokesperson.
“However, we would never want anyone to feel uncomfortable and would encourage anyone who doesn’t want to be photographed to let a member of the team know.”
• Meanwhile, reports suggest plans for electrification of the TransPennine route are to be shelved by the Government.