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RSPB Spotlight on Badgers book
James Lowen explores the lives of badgers and their communal living, feeding habits and threats to their conservation. Click here to buy:
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In March 1986 the Tonbridge to Hastings line was electrified, using the live-third-rail system. Within one month, 100 badgers were dead.

Electrocution of badgers on the railways remains a serious problem. The numbers of badgers killed can be reduced by having gaps in the electrified rail, but these need to be positioned at well-used badger-crossing points.

To find out where these crossing points are, railway companies should arrange for a detailed badger survey to be done. Realistically, track-side engineering staff will not normally be familiar enough with the habits of badgers to do this properly.

Short sections of the third-rail can be left as non-electrified. However, as the non-electrified sections of rail can be a maximum of three metres long, particular care needs to be taken where the badgers stagger their crossing points, and non-electrified rails will need to be staggered accordingly. Of course, installing special sections of rail has cost implications, so these are an important factor too. In any event, these safe sections of rail can't be too close together (otherwise there may be power-supply issues for the trains).

Because badgers may stray away from safe areas, the Badger Consultant should also be asked to install or supervise the installation of suitable badger-resistant fencing on both sides of the railway lines. As well as trying to prevent the badgers getting onto unsafe sections of track, these may also be used to try a limit the actual number of crossing points. However, having too few crossing points is likely to lead to territorial restrictions for the badgers; with an increased risk of conflict between clans; as well as serious efforts to undermine new fences or walls.

In some cases, fencing can be used in conjunction with badger "gates". These can be two-way or one-way. One-way gates would be useful in that they can often prevent badgers getting onto the track, but can allow them a theoretical escape route (if they know to use it). As always, badgers gates have cost implications; and have a maintenance overhead (as some-one needs to check that they are still working). Whilst a Badger Consultant or a Badger Group will need to be involved with the installation of the fencing, a suitably trained person should be able to check the condition of the fencing and any badger gates at a later date.

As with the tunnels under new roads, railway crossing points can help to substantially reduce badger mortality. They do require a lot of work on the part of the badger consultant or any Badger Group or Wildlife Trust, and early consultation with the railway companies is essential.

So far as members of the public are concerned, you need to have the permission of the railway companies before being allowed onto the rail track. Normally, you will be expected to have completed some sort of basic safety training before permission is granted. It's not only badgers who get killed on railway lines.

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