Dogs get sniffin’ for newts in Hitchin ahead of vital track improvements: Rocky and Arnie searching for newts in Hitchin

Friday 26 Mar 2021

Dogs get sniffin’ for newts in Hitchin ahead of vital track improvements

Region & Route:
| Eastern: East Coast

Network Rail teams in Hitchin are using innovative methods - and two new recruits - to detect and protect great crested newts.

Rocky and Arnie are the world’s first scientifically proven great crested newt detection dogs. They’ve been out on site before essential work to maintain the track takes place next month to bring smoother, more reliable journeys for passengers.

Great crested newts are usually found in ponds, woodland or on grassland, but the amphibians, which are a protected species, sometimes make it onto worksites. If present, they must be trapped and safely moved to a suitable habitat away from where the work is taking place which takes time and can delay projects.

That’s where the detective duo step in. As well as saving time and money, Rocky and Arnie can cover large areas much faster than workers on site and accurately detect any newts.

The dogs were trained for their careers following research and trials with Atkins, Wagtail UK and Natural England.

After a good sniff on the railway and around the worksite, neither Rocky nor Arnie found any evidence of great crested newts, meaning the work can be carried out as planned.

Steve Hughes, Programme Director for Network Rail, said: “It’s amazing to see how quickly Rocky and Arnie managed to cover the worksite in Hitchin and check if there were any great crested newts. This method will save valuable time and reduce delays to vital improvements to the railway.

“As we work to protect the environment and increase biodiversity near the railway, the detection dogs will help us protect great crested newts, so they can then be moved to suitable habitats.”


Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Kathryn Muffett
Media Relations Manager
Network Rail
01904 383180

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

Follow us on Twitter: @networkrail
Visit our online newsroom: