East West Rail Alliance

Case Study


The East West Rail Alliance is responsible for the delivery of the EWR2 project and consists of Atkins, Laing O'Rourke, Volker Rail and Network Rail who are working collaboratively to provide passengers with much improved cross-country rail links.

East West Rail is a major project to establish a strategic railway connecting East Anglia with Central, Southern and Western England. In particular, it plans to build a line linking Oxford and Cambridge via Bicester, Milton Keynes and Bedford, largely using the track bed of the former Varsity Line

The Varsity Line between Bicester and Bletchley had been shelved in the Beeching cuts of 1963 and so the Line has remained unused for over 60 years, nature had taken over the old line and engulfed it in vegetation with a wide range of wildlife now calling this home.

This would all need to be sensitively removed to allow the new track to be built.

Homegrown offered a wide range of machine capabilities, as well as expertise in environmentally sensitive projects and could commit to a tight programme of works, which we demonstrated within the first couple of months, this gave EWRA the confidence to engage with us for the whole of the project.

Homegrown were called in as we had the resource to manage a large environmentally sensitive contract which was multi-faceted and remove vegetation in stages to ground level for hand over to the groundwork’s teams.

At all levels of the works, we had to work alongside ecological constraint for protected species such as: Badgers, Bats, Great Crested Newts, Red Kites and all manner of everyday wildlife. Vegetation was removed in stages - stage one was to take all vegetation down to 500mm (except any trees or bushes with nesting birds), this allowed the ecologists to complete thorough searches of the ground, once approved we took the remaining vegetation down to ground level.

All vegetation was removed from site, all wooded arisings were chipped and removed to power plants to be used for renewable energy.

The final process was to remove all roots using mechanic aids and to lift check for wildlife, shake off excess soils, backfill the void and remove for processing, the roots required a multi shredding process to break them down to be used as chip.

Homegrown is able to undertake all levels of vegetation management, with manpower and machine capabilities, giving the client the huge benefit of a one stop shop service.

Homegrown completed the first stage of this project early and as such not only saved the client precious time on a large project, but also meant we secured the rest of the project due to our excellent performance.  

During the project we were governed by the Environmental Risk Assessment Procedure (ERMP) and the Environmental Permit to Proceed (EPP). No works were undertaken without the ecologist doing a morning walkthrough of the site and confirming any sensitive areas and agreeing with the works to go ahead to ensure everything was done to limit the impact on the environment.

Homegrown also engaged with a local resource agency to employ as many local people as possible on the project, as well as our own employees using local shops and facilities to help local economy. To further benefit our social impact on this project we also undertook work for Grendon Underwood School, where we supplied sports fencing and sporting equipment for the school.

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