HomeRail NewsOn the edge

On the edge

Listen to this article

When travelling on the train, staring blankly out of the window, whether in rolling countryside or in towns, there is one thing that you always see, yet hardly ever see.

It’s there if you look for it, but otherwise it just goes past in a blur. You might even find yourself following the line of it, yet you still don’t really see it.

The fencing.

Network Rail has a statutory duty to protect the fence the railway, or provide another suitable barrier. So, along with hedges and ditches, fences occur alongside most of the railway lines in Britain. And those fences have to be maintained.

When the time comes to replace a fence, and that can vary from a short length to a long run, a variety of skills can be required. The old fence has to be removed and disposed of in line with current regulations and the need to recycle as much as possible. Vegetation that has grown up along and through the old fence has to be removed or cut back.

The new fence may need the ground prepared in advance – in the worst case that could even need piling. And then the fence itself has to be installed. For these reasons, it is best to call in a specialist contractor.


H W Martin (Fencing Contractors) Ltd was incorporated in 1976 and forms part of the H W Martin group of companies. Based in the village of Blackwell in Derbyshire, only five minutes from the M1 motorway, the company operates nationally and, so far as rail is concerned, holds a principal contractors licence.

The company’s roots are very much in the railway industry, as founder and managing director, Harold Martin, carried out lineside fencing works for British Rail in the East Midlands during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Changes in the industry brought an end to this work, and so the company moved on to what proved to be a long and fruitful association with British Coal. Following the decline of the coal industry, the company looked around for new markets, and identified the rail industry as being a developing market for its fencing products.

The first rail contracts were won in 1996 in the North West of England. Through continued investment the company is now a national framework contractor to Network Rail, delivering a National Fencing Renewals Programme throughout England, Scotland & Wales.

Over the years, H W Martin has been involved in a number of key railway projects including the Channel Tunnel High Speed Link (now HS1), and the route modernisation of the West Coast Mainline. This included the biggest single fencing contract the company has undertaken, on the Trent Valley Four-Tracking Project.

Trent Valley

The contract was for the design and build of 6km of noise mitigation barriers up to 5 metres in height and 28km of security fencing on the railway boundary. The scope of works included driven steel piles and augered pile foundations and temporary works for access to the top of cutting slopes at certain locations.

The contract was completed on time and within budget. H W Martin designers worked in tandem with the client to find engineered solutions to a number of different challenges on the project.

Alongside this work, H W Martin also won the contract for the construction of the access points which included pedestrian, vehicular and RRV access points on this project.

In 1998, Railtrack, the infrastructure controller at that time, began a programme for the removal of specific species of tree that were causing problems to the safe and punctual running of trains due to leaf fall.

The company saw this as a further opportunity to serve the railway industry, and quickly put together a highly skilled team of forestry workers with all the necessary equipment to deliver the work offered.

Today these services are offered to a number of clients within the rail industry on an ongoing basis and include the removal of dangerous trees, flail clearance and scrub clearance either by traditional methods or by use of a self-propelled mulcher.

To date, the company has delivered fencing and vegetation clearance for the railway industry to a value in excess of £150 Million.

Other styles

Whilst majoring in steel palisade, mesh and stock type fencing, as specified by Network Rail, staff are able to erect all of the proprietary fencing systems currently available on the market in compliance with the appropriate part of BS1722. One example of this is a contract for the design and build of noise attenuation barriers on the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line.

The company continues to seek new products, such as GRP fencing, to add to its portfolio. In 2010, the H W Martin Group purchased William Bain Ltd, a fence manufacturing business specialising in the manufacture of high specification security fencing which has traded for 125 years.

This fencing has gained SEAP Class 3 and 4 classification and is currently being used as the “first line of defence” at many CNI (Critical National Infrastructure) designated sites throughout the UK.


Safety is naturally a key priority as the company strives to achieve a zero tolerance culture. There is a strong commitment to training which seeks to develop employees throughout their working life so that they are skilled in the tasks that they undertake and are certificated to the appropriate standards including CITB, Lantra, NPORS and NPTC. Sentinel track safety training is carried out in-house for grades such as PTS, LKT, IWA, HTC & COSS. This training is even offered to external clients.

Railway property, of course, backs on to the property of others. So H W Martin staff have had to become skilled at liaising with residents, property owners, farmers, local authorities and utility companies, as the need arises. In addition, operating in the countryside alongside railway lines, in farmland, woodland, forest, national parks as well as in residential areas, the company is committed to protecting the environment by:

  • Preventing pollution
  • Controlling and reducing emissions to the environment
  • Focusing on energy consumption, with a view to reducing depletion of natural resources
  • Recycling and reclaiming materials
  • Reducing waste to landfill
  • Complying with legislation regulations and relevant codes of practice at all times.

In addition, there is a commitment to social, environmental and ethical conduct within the business. Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) are taken seriously and policies and systems are in place across the group to ensure that all aspects of CSR that are relevant to the business are addressed and monitored.

There is an established investor relations programme, regular customer satisfaction surveys are carried out and every supplier’s performance is constantly monitored.

So next time you stare out of the window of your comfortable railway carriage, just focus on the passing fence for a moment, and remember how it got there.

Previous article
Next article


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.