A TEAM OF WI volunteers who have tended to a Shropshire railway garden for 20 accident-free years have been told to down tools - for health and safety reasons.
The 32 members of Bucknell WI have been told by Network Rail they must complete a risk assessment and obtain insurance before carrying out any more work on the garden at Bucknell Station, near Craven Arms.
They have also been told the garden needs to be fenced off from the line, despite having no accidents during the last two decades.
Network Rail, however, today said it took safety matters very seriously and did not want to compromise anyone's safety.
Beryl Starr, president of the WI, said: "As far as we're concerned, it came out of the blue.
"For the last 20 years, Bucknell WI has planted, developed and maintained a garden on the disused platform at Bucknell station.
"This has been a source of pride to the local community and provides a pleasing introduction to visitors arriving via the Heart of Wales line. We've planted bulbs and put up hanging baskets. One of our members Sheila Chase is 90 and she still helps."
She added: "Members were amazed to hear this autumn that we are banned from accessing the garden because of interventions by the Network Rail Safety Inspectorate."
She said the group had been told members could continue to work on the garden after it had been fenced off from the line.
The group must then complete a risk assessment, arrange insurance and sign a five-page licence that would restrict their activities. But Mavis Choong, Network Rail media relations manager, said: "We are disappointed that Bucknell WI has misunderstood our intention.
"Our aim is provide a secure and safe working zone for them and this is part of a guideline to facilitate community groups in carrying out their activities.
"This guideline is widely practised by around 40 community groups, including WI groups in Norfolk, and we cover some groups with insurance if they do not have their own.
"Network Rail takes safety matters very seriously and it will be wrong to compromise or wait for tragedy to happen before we act."
By Hannah Costigan