Image credits: Network Rail

Specially protected great crested newts have been rescued by railway workers during maintenance work in Worcestershire.

While clearing out drainage systems on the track near Droitwich, Network Rail staff found 11 common toads and two great crested newts.

Before any work in drains takes place, staff have strict rules to follow to make sure they aren’t disturbing any unexpected residents.

When the 13 amphibians were found, the team stopped work immediately and called for a Network Rail ecologist to come to site.

A total of 20 drainage pits were checked for further signs of life before the maintenance could continue.

Great crested newts are a European protected species, meaning the animals and their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected by law.

Sam Jones, ecologist at Network Rail, said: “It’s great we were able to relocate these 13 animals to a safe place, where they hopefully won’t be disturbed by our work on the railway again.

“As one of the country’s largest landowners, Network Rail is responsible for a vast amount of land and wide range of wildlife habitats. Teams are well aware of their responsibility to protect the lineside environment – in particular when it comes to protected species.”

Wendy Carter, communications lead at Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, said: “It’s good to hear that Network Rail have rescued our amphibian friends. It’s an important and timely reminder that many species of wildlife will have tucked themselves away somewhere cosy to survive the winter, which gives us a great excuse not to do too much tidying in our gardens during the cold winter months.

“Log piles and clumps of long grass may provide a great hideaway for toads, frogs and newts, piles of leaves act as a duvet and seed heads and hollow stems provide refuge for many of our insects. It’s important to remember, however, that great crested newts are a protected species so unless you are moving them out of immediate danger, only licensed people should handle them.”

It’s an offence to injure, kill, take or disturb a great crested newt in the UK – this means they can only be moved with a special licence.

Great crested newts are native to Britain and can grow up to 17 centimetres long – making them the country’s largest native newt species.

They are named for the male newts’ distinctive long, unbroken crests on their back and tail during breeding season.

To find out more about Network Rail’s work to encourage biodiversity on the railway visit: www.networkrail.co.uk/sustainability/biodiversity-on-britains-railway/