Advancing biodiversity with technological innovation
Company - Network Rail
How was this solved?
Traditionally major and minor projects can be impacted when wildlife is found and delays add up. Network Rail have developed an app to enable employees to report wildlife encounters, build better records and prevent surprises once projects begin.
The app is simple so anyone can use it whether they know the difference between a great crested newt and a palmate newt or they just know there’s an animal in the area they are working in.
Downloaded over 1000 times in its first two months, the launch of the app was accompanied by training and engagement programmes to help users understand how they could make the most of it. 85 records were filed and the app is still rolling out to Network Rail staff with plans to introduce it to contractors working on projects on rail land.
The work connects with projects to convert signal boxes into bat houses, with contractors and staff learning about the species they find, creating new niche skills to enhance CVs and business capabilities. In turn this expertise is building and will ensure that future projects can tap in to a growing bank of knowledge to plan for practical biodiversity management at the earliest stage of design.
When out on site users can take a photo of the animal or plant they have seen, describe it and even describe any signs they have found and enter them into the app. The entry is then verified by a team of ecologists to create a permanent record to the database.
When invasive species, which may present a legal issue, or endangered species, which may need protection, are discovered the team can initiate action. Simply knowing the species is present will mean that future projects can prepare to avoid harm and design ways to enhance the works proposed, saving on the risk of unexpected project delays.
The project was sponsored by Kevin Robertshaw, Signalling Programme Director, whose leadership made sure the app was given the support it needed and remained high on Network Rail’s priority list.
Connections between organisations is the key. We are talking with Statutory Nature Conservation Organisations (such as Natural England), Local Wildlife Trusts, and species interest groups such as Butterfly Conservation and the Bat Conservation Trust so we can bring together our records for a better picture of our wildlife and a more useful database for mapping challenging areas for projects. - Octavia Neeves, Senior Ecologist, Network Rail.
What were the outcomes?
1000 downloads of the app in two months, 85 records filed.
Reducing our environmental impact, Optimising the railway, Being transparent.
Asset / operations