A TEAM from Network Rail has reunited a football clubs with balls that ended up on the railway line.

Portskewett and Sudbrook FC play next to the London to Swansea main line and balls sometimes end up on the track.

With high speed trains whizzing past the village pitch near Caldicot, the balls have remained unretrieved.

But a customer complaints team from Network Rail have collected a dozen wayward balls and returned them to the grateful club.

Each 12-pack of footballs cost the club £80, and the club spends £900 on footballs each year.

Network Rail has pledged to continue helping the club by returning any lost balls found within the railway boundary every four months.

Originally, Network Rail was asked to grant access to the railway for the coaches so that they could collect the footballs in a safe and monitored manner.

However, as safety is Network Rail’s number one priority, the customer complaints team offered to collect the balls themselves.  

The team then tidied up some hedgerows that were encroaching on to the football pitch from the railway.

In addition, they repaired a lineside fence that contributed to the pitch becoming waterlogged during heavy rain.  

Barry Hadley, infrastructure maintenance protection co-ordinator at Network Rail, who organised the football collection, said: “We are really happy to have helped this junior football club in Caldicot.

“We had no idea that there were that many footballs stuck in the hedges!  

“Our job is to maintain a safe and reliable railway and to also be a good neighbour; if that means returning footballs and trimming back some vegetation so a community can continue to play football, then I say that’s a job well done.”  

Secretary of State for Wales and Member of Parliament for Monmouth, David Davies, contacted Network Rail and stressed the importance of the club to the community. The MP also attended a visit to the club with Network Rail to see the balls returned.  

Mr Davies said: “I am really proud of the work carried out by Network Rail; it’s fantastic that they are happy to support the community by helping this junior football club.  

“Not only have Network Rail helped on this occasion, but they have committed to returning three times a year to return footballs and help maintain the pitch by trimming back hedges from the railway.”  

Michael Panacci, secretary at Portskewett and Sudbrook FC, added: “With the support of Network Rail, we have been able to make savings on match and training ball purchases. Last season the club spent over £900 on footballs, which for a grassroots football club, is a lot of expense.  

“Also to note, that due to the pro-active work that has been completed by Network Rail, the condition of the pitch has improved by the new fence as it has helped prevent the pitch from becoming waterlogged.”

The club has around 200 members and offers free access to football for children aged between three- and eight-year-olds and provides highly subsidised access for children aged nine to 16.