A NOTORIOUS pest weed has been spotted growing on railway tracks close to the heart of Malvern.

The plant, called Japanese knotweed, is growing on the western bank of the railway cutting between the Barnards Green Road and Avenue Road railway bridges.

Japanese knotweed is described by the Royal Horticultural Society as ‘a fast-growing and strong clump-forming perennial, with tall, dense annual stems’.

Growth of the weed is renewed each year from the stout, deeply-penetrating rhizomes, or creeping underground stems.

Because these stems can be up to ten feet below the ground, the weed is very hard to control, and eradication requires determination as it is difficult to remove by hand or eradicate with chemicals.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to cause Japanese knotweed to grow in the wild.

The species is expensive to remove.

According to the UK government, the cost of controlling knotweed had hit £1.25 billion by 2014.

It cost £70 million to eradicate knotweed from 10 acres of the London 2012 Olympic Games velodrome and aquatic centre.

After the infestation was reported to Network Rail, which owns and manages most of the UK’s rail infrastructure, by the Malvern Gazette, a spokesperson for the company said: “Once reported to us, Japanese knotweed growing on our land is treated for three to five years or until the problem is eradicated.

“As many gardeners know, Japanese knotweed is invasive, difficult to treat and requires several years of treatment to be effective.

“Our established regime complies with legislation and helps us run a safe, reliable railway.”