Network Rail says it’s working to help Cumbria’s wildlife by restoring a river to its meandering state.

The organisation, which operates the country’s rail infrastructure, is collaborating with the Eden Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, Natural England and landowners to restore the River Leith, near Thrimby, and to protect the West Coast Main Line, which runs parallel, from possible future flooding.

Historically the river had been straightened, something the experts say, does not provide suitable conditions for wildlife or protect the land from inundation - in turn, this puts the railway, one of the busiest in Europe, at risk of erosion.

Forty-six passenger trains and seven freight trains go past every 24 hours, carrying up to 18,500 tonnes of goods like, bananas, pasta and loo roll over the border.

Work has begun to cut a new 1km meandering river channel that flows away from the railway line.

It will be 33 per cent longer than the previously course.

Rory Kingdon, senior sponsor at Network Rail, said: “Restoring the river benefits the environment and protects the track from flooding.

“Working with Eden Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency to make the railway more resilient is a win-win for wildlife, passengers and freight users.”

Lev Dahl, river restoration manager at Eden Rivers Trust, said: “It is going to provide a huge range of benefits, increasing habitat, protecting the railway and reducing flood risk.

“As the project matures, it will also provide homes for a range of birds and mammal species.

“All of these benefits are set within a working sheep and beef farm and provides a great example of how food production, nature conservation and the transport sector can work hand in hand.”

Olly Southgate, Cumbria river restoration programme manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Delivering river restoration work can provide a vast array of benefits not only for ecology, fish and biodiversity but also for contributing to natural flood management.

"This makes a real difference to people’s lives and to communities as a whole.”

To find out more about the project go to: