Network Rail is stepping up its efforts in tackling cable thefts on North Cotswold, where there is a spike in incidents in the last 12 months.
Nearly 70% of the cable theft incidents on the Western route happen on the North Cotswold line. The 33 incidents on the line in the last 12 months cost the industry more than £300,000 and nearly 9000 minutes of delays on the railway.
The company is investing around £1m to protect key locations on the route with new deterrence measures. They include nightly security patrol, air surveillance, securing cables with special steel bands and covert devices that monitor any attempted theft. However Network Rail and the wider rail industry believe that full reform of the 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers Act is needed to support their actions.
This needs to include:
- an updated, fully funded licensing scheme to replace the voluntary registration currently in place.
- magistrates should also have the power to impose restrictions upon, and ultimately enforce the closure of, yards that fail to keep to the law.
- police powers to enter, inspect and if necessary close scrap dealers are essential. At present they may only enter registered premises with a warrant.
- a requirement for scrap metal dealers to require proof of identity and to keep adequate records about their customers.
- Additional requirements on itinerant metal dealers’ vehicle licences to enable those operating outside the law to be impounded.
Patrick Hallgate, route managing director for Network Rail said: “Given the sophisticated technique used, we believe that this area has been targeted by organised criminals. Several arrests were made in the area recently and we aim to bring even more criminals to justice with these additional measures.”
“We are also grateful for the public support we continue to receive in reporting suspicious activity – both on the railway and at disreputable scrap dealers. We will continue to do all we can to stop these thieves but it is clear the law needs substantial change in order to take away the easy market for illegal scrap. We firmly believe that without legal reform we will continue to see thousands of hours delay and millions of pounds wasted on these crimes.”
Detective Inspector Andy Irwin-Porter, of British Transport Police, said: “We are working closely with Network Rail and local police forces to tackle cable theft from the rail network in the North Cotswolds area. As well as stepping up patrols in the area and deploying officers from our specialist Op Leopard cable crime team, we also work closely with scrap yard owners to monitor any cable which is brought in. And, with assistance from railway and telecoms experts, we can quickly identify if any of that cable has been taken from the rail network.
“Since the start of 2012, we have dealt with 16 offences in the area and made 8 arrests with all of those arrested currently on bail in relation to these offences while further enquiries continue. The theft of cable has a direct impact on the everyday lives of the travelling public. It really is an attack on the community. We are asking to the local community to help act as our eyes and ears and report any suspicious behaviour or activity on the railways in your area straight away.”