NETWORK Rail has been criticised for an alleged “do-not-care attitude” towards tackling a plant that can cause painful blisters.

A county-wide Giant Hogweed Eradication Project has been running for three years, covering the River Esk and its tributaries.

The community-led project encourages landowners to control giant hogweed on their land.

Giant hogweed is spread by seed, which travels by water, air, vehicles and trains.

The combination of sap on the skin and exposure to sunlight can produce painful, burning blisters within 48 hours.

Contact with the plant sap can also result in purple or black scars.

'Utter disgrace'

James Wyllie, Giant Hogweed Eradication Project co-ordinator with East Lothian Countryside Volunteers, criticised Network Rail for what he felt was a lack of action.

He said: “I have spent many weeks in Inveresk and Musselburgh, checking that all the landowners are doing their bit, only to discover that Network Rail, who know the community scale of this project, have once more failed to spray their giant hogweed plants. I think it an utter disgrace that there seems to be this ‘do-not-care’ attitude from such a large corporation who try to say that they are part of the community.

“The Network Rail track runs right through the middle of the areas that we are eradicating giant hogweed from, so seeds will blow over and infect land where others have taken the trouble to control.

“One flowering plant can produce up to 10,000 seeds so you can see the scale of the problem.”

Network Rail has been approached for a comment.