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
| 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.”

ENDS

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