A ‘SCORCHED earth’ policy of felling trees along the railway in Oxford has ruined a wildlife corridor and made air pollution worse, residents have claimed.

Wildlife charities have condemned Network Rail after it emerged the firm had drawn up a map of 10 million trees nationwide that could be cut down.

And despite Network Rail insisting it planted more trees than it felled along the new London to Oxford route, residents say the Oxford to Bicester section, upgraded in 2015 and 2016, was a ‘pathfinder’ for the aggressive policy and had already ruined the habitat.

Trackside resident and wildlife enthusiast Keith Dancey, who lives in Wolvercote, said the once green corridor had become a ‘barren wasteland’.

He said: “It was an ecological disaster - it used to be a lovely railway corridor with lots of wildlife, we had roe deer, muntjacs, badgers, foxes, toads and plenty of different species of birds.

“We were assured that only vegetation up to six metres from the line would be cleared - and we accepted that. But instead they removed every tree, shrub, and blade of grass and even tried to fell trees in people’s gardens.”

The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire And Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) member said the Oxford section was a ‘pathfinder’ and warned the rest of the country to stand guard over thousands of miles of greenery.

He added: “They have used PR spin about wanting to improve biodiversity and now they are talking about safety issues but the real reason is they want to stop the recurring maintenance costs.”

The loss of vegetation along the line has also sparked concerns over air pollution from the diesel locomotives.

Adrian Olsen, chairman of the residents’ group representing the Waterways development, said: “Along the edge of the Waterways estate (and elsewhere) Network Rail cut down almost all of the trees on their land and the single line of trees left on our land, recently reduced to a low level at Network Rail’s insistence, has many gaps in it.

“There are many places where houses are very close to noise and diesel pollution, and where there is a barrier of vegetation it is only one tree thick; more trees would make a welcome and wildlife friendly second baffle to supplement the new noise barrier, and absorb pollution.”

Following further complaints about ‘intolerable’ noise from trains parked at Oxford sidings, the firm has now agreed to replant a number of trees along William Lucy Way.

Spokeswoman, Helen Blake, said: “Network Rail takes its ecological responsibilities seriously and does everything possible to balance running a safe and reliable railway with caring for and maintaining the environment.

“As part of the transformation between Oxford and London, more trees were planted than removed and we looked at all aspects of wildlife preservation.”