Friday 19 Sep 2003


Region & Route:
| Southern
Network Rail has recruited some unusual allies as part of its commitment to providing a safe and reliable railway. Over 40 replica owls have been employed across Surrey and Sussex to reduce the nuisance caused by seagulls.  The two-foot high plastic owls are placed on railway electric substations and deter birds from landing. Seagulls have caused problems for the railway for many years by short-circuiting the power supply, which can lead to delays to passenger services. Ten owls were installed last year as part of a trial to test their effectiveness in improving railway performance. The trial was on overwhelming success with no bird related substation failures reported after installation. The remaining 40 new recruits were installed this summer, with the final 'pet' owl from Brighton taking up duties at Three Bridges two weeks ago. Network Rail explored the various options available for seagull control, which included pigeon spikes, scarecrows and teflon paint, however the owls have proved to be the most humane and cost effective solution. The owls’ principle duties are to scare seagulls from railway substations, particularly during the berry season when the pests are most problematic. On occasions the owls are retired or moved from site to ensure they remain as realistic as possible to the nuisance seagulls. Mike Edwards, Maintenance Delivery Manager, Network Rail commented, “The new additions to the railway team are proving invaluable in cracking down on the nuisance caused by gulls and they certainly have created interest and a smile from our passengers.”

Contact information

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

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - South East route
020 3357 7969

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: