Neighbours living near a railway line confronted contractors hacking down scores of trees overlooking their gardens.

Network Rail workers armed with chainsaws began the felling operation near London Road Station, Brighton, yesterday morning.

People living in nearby Ditchling Rise sprang into action in a bid to stop the operation, even going on to land near the station platform to try to get the men to stop work.

They say the lack of trees will reduce their privacy, destroy a wildlife haven and even put their homes at risk of burglary.

But Network Rail said the work was vital and accused residents of putting their lives at risk by trespassing on to private land.

A spokesman said trees were being felled as leaves were causing trains to slip dangerously on the tracks.

Danny Simons, 53, who has lived in Ditchling Rise for almost 20 years, said: “Network Rail has done some work to the trees each year but has always given us notice and is supposed to take away only the top layer of trees nearest the track.

“But the workmen started tearing down all the trees so we had to go and speak to them to stop them and they stopped coming so far down the hill.

“I dread to think what we would have come home to had we all been at work.”

Ian Dury, 29, whose top floor roof terrace overlooks the rail line, said: “Everyone is upset about this.

“One of the attractions of living here is that it almost feels secluded at the back of the houses. Now people at the station and on the trains will be able to see straight into our homes.

“Without the trees we are more vulnerable to burglars. It is private land but they shouldn’t be allowed to chop down trees for no good reason without consultation.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “We are very concerned by the actions of some of the residents. Entering an operational work site near a live rail, where trees were being felled and chainsaws being used, was a dangerous and irresponsible thing to do. They put their lives and the lives of others at risk. We hope that in future common sense prevails.”