THE cutting down of trees and vegetation alongside the Oxford-Bicester line has certainly delivered another blow to Network Rail’s relations with residents in North Oxford. 

Residents, it seems, were reduced to running around last week asking workmen what was going on as silver birches and hawthorn were felled. 

Given that the company was already facing demands for measures to mitigate noise and vibration from faster and more frequent passenger services and freight resulting from the upgrading of the line to accommodate the new Chiltern Railways link to London and the reopening of the East West link to Milton Keynes, the lack of consultation is remarkable. 

The decision to meet residents yesterday is welcome but far too late. 

City council leader Bob Price believes the destruction of the trees to have been unnecessary, expressing grave concerns about “the cavalier approach” that the railway companies are taking to important environmental issues. 

Residents are even less charitable, unhappy the current developments or whether the company is serious about building a flyover line at Oxford North junction, where the Bicester line leaves the Oxford-Banbury route, at some point in the future. 
Confusion and suspicion are taking hold, with residents insisting that the threat to homes and wildlife areas is far more serious than the university’s controversial Castle Mill student block development nearby. 

The removal of the trees, in the V-shaped area between the Oxford-Banbury lines and the Bicester route, has removed a visual screen, the company admits. But it is insistent the trees provided no protection from noise or vibration from passing trains. 

The problem is that some residents happen to believe that they are being kept up at night, having lost the little protection they had. 

Not what you want when facing a projected increase of 200 trains a day, after all the work is done. 
Residents also fear that protection given to residents at the public inquiry by the inspector, setting maximum levels of vibration and noise, may no longer apply, because of changes to the scheme that seem to have passed unnoticed. 

One campaigner, knocking on hundreds of doors in Upper Wolvercote, has established that a significant number of homes may have suffered structural damage over the past 30 years. And this was a time when comparatively few trains used the line. 

Anxiety is growing and needs to be addressed. Explanations after the work is completed is simply putting the carriage before the engine.