Network Rail Cable theft: The greatest of all train robberies

The campaign represents a call to communities to take a stand against cable theft which causes delays to thousands of rail passengers every week. It has been launched to coincide with the national day of action against metal theft on Friday, 29 July.

British Transport Police Assistant Chief Constable Alan Pacey, said: “Metal and cable theft is one of the biggest challenges we face. In a time of falling crime figures, metal theft has risen by more than 70 per cent during the past year and, as a result, has had an enormous impact on the rail passengers across the UK.

“This is not a crime which solely impacts on Network Rail or the operators, as the thieves would have us believe, it represents a direct attack on people and communities who rely on rail travel to go about their daily business.

“This has to stop. BTP officers, together with colleagues from the rail industry, have worked closely with scrap metal dealers in a bid to stop thieves being able to sell on the stolen metal – and this work will continue as we aim to make life more and more difficult for criminals.

“But, as we jointly launch the new campaign, we are also calling on local people and communities to take an active stand against this crime and pass any information about related criminal behaviour to police.”

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Dyan Crowther, director of operations for Network Rail, said: “It is vital that we work together to tackle the issue of metal theft which is blighting our railway and our communities. The financial costs are substantial but wider social and economic disruption cannot continue.

“In the first three months of this financial year we have seen nearly 300 crimes which caused nearly 2,000 hours of delay to passengers and cost £4.3m in compensation costs alone. This campaign is just part of a much wider programme which seeks to better protect our cables, get trains on the move more quickly when a theft does occur and – crucially – supporting British Transport Police with the detection and prosecution of the people who steal from our railway.”

In the North East, where, last year, metal theft rose by more than 73 per cent, BTP officers will be spreading the word during the national day of action on 29 July.During the day BTP will be carrying out scrap metal dealer checks, lineside cable patrols, leaflet drops and disruption visits to offenders in cable hotspot areas, including Teeside- Middlesbrough, Stockton and Billingham, West Yorkshire-Castleford, Wakefield, South Elmsall, Knottingley, Leeds and Moorthorpe, South Yorkshire - Hatfield and Stainforth in addition to Newcastle, Sunderland and Hull.

Detective Inspector Mick Jackson of Operation Leopard - BTP’s dedicated cable and metal theft team: “Tackling cable theft is a priority for BTP and we are prepared to do everything within our power to take action against anyone who steals from the railway.

“We will be out and about during the coming days, weeks and months, targeting known hot-spot locations, and making life as difficult as possible for would-be thieves.

“My officers understand the misery caused by cable theft and will go to great lengths to deter thieves from targeting the railway.

“When thefts do occur we will use every investigative and forensic tactic available to us to trace those responsible and put them before the courts.”

The theft of cable from the railway has an enormous impact on the travelling public with countless delays and cancellations directly attributable to the crime.

DI Jackson concluded: “We are working extremely closely with Network Rail to address the issue and lessen the impact of cable theft on the communities throughout the area.

Gary Cooper, Head of Operations at ATOC, said: “Train companies want to do all they possibly can to reduce the number of cancellations and delays caused by cable theft, which regularly leads to considerable disruption for many of their passengers.

“Operators and the industry as a whole are determined to crack down on the thieves, whose actions lead to extra work for staff and cost of millions of pounds, money which could otherwise be invested in improving services for passengers.

“Members of the public can help us by reporting any incidents of cable theft or suspected criminal activity at scrap metal dealers to the police, and we urge them to do so.”

Transport Minister Norman Baker said: “It is essential we get to grips with this problem because cable thefts are becoming more and more numerous and audacious – for example, gangs of thieves have even dressed up as official workers to get access to sites so they can steal cable and equipment.

“We also had a situation in June this year where thieves stole cabling during the rush hour, knocking out power on vast swathes of the network and causing thousands of passengers to be stranded in their trains for hours on end.

“Stealing railway cable is selfish and dangerous – it disrupts passengers’ journeys and costs the rail industry millions of pounds each year. We take metal theft very seriously I will be meeting Ministerial colleagues soon to discuss the issue. I strongly support Network Rail and the British Transport Police in tackling these crimes.”


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