21 February 1997

NFU hits out at Railtrack

TAKE a three-day training course in rail safety and employ a look-out is Railtracks answer to farmers requests to control rabbits on the companys land.

"Its a ludicrous situation," said NFU legal adviser Richard Vidal. "Farmers, frustrated by Railtracks delay in controlling rabbits on their land, want to control the pests themselves but cannot do so unless they take a three-day training course."

Railtrack fails to control rabbits promptly unless their burrows threaten to cause track subsidence and endanger public safety, said Mr Vidal. "Weve even heard reports of spokesmen for Railtrack telling farmers that if they insist on growing crops that are attractive to rabbits near railways, they should not be surprised if they are eaten."

The NFU advises farmers to contact the pest officer at their regional MAFF centre. MAFF has the power to enforce control measures against Railtrack; between Feb 96 and Oct 96, it issued 14 pest act notices against the company for rabbit control.

&#8226 The NFU is considering bringing a test case against Railtrack on behalf of a Gloucestershire farmer.