Rail Industry Focus

14.09.17

Keeping an eye on cable theft

Source: RTM Aug/Sep 17

RTM’s David Stevenson reflects on recent cable theft figures from Network Rail.

I remember one of the early features I wrote for RTM was in the 2014 Aug/Sept edition entitled ‘Curbing cable theft on the railway’, and while the national statistics suggest we are still on a downward trajectory, recent news stories make for worrying reading. 

Network Rail has released its updated ‘National Performance Affecting Cable Theft Summary’ document, which covered figures to 15 August, and highlighted that so far in 2017-18 there have been 24 incidents leading to a total of 11,559 delay minutes. 

While this figure is significantly down from 2013-14 when 179 incidents took place, and delay minutes stood at 68,497, it is slightly concerning because during the whole of 2016-17 there were just 41 reported cases. We are currently at 24 incidents with eight more reporting periods still to come. 

When you look at the incident numbers as well, this year they seem to be more consistent with four reported issues in four out of the five periods – there was a spike to eight incidents in one window. When you look at the data over the last few years the numbers seem to yo-yo a lot more. Perhaps this is because, as Detective Chief Inspector Alison Evans, the former head of the metal theft unit at British Transport Police (BTP), once told me, cable theft is ‘dying off’ among low-level offenders. I do hope this is still the case. 

But what about high-level offenders? As many of our readers will recall, Network Rail recently issued a call saying that police were hunting thieves who stole more than £90,000 of copper from the railway. It was also a significant amount of wire, some 3,650 metres of it in the Staffordshire area. 

The infrastructure owner added that the total cost to the British taxpayer of replacing the cable currently stands at around £300,000. 

At the time, Karl Weller, Network Rail section manager based at Stafford, made this impassioned plea: “When signalling cables are removed the signalling and telecommunication systems of the railway do not work and trains can’t run. The impact on customers will get worse if these thieves are not caught. 

“If you see anything suspicious – gates left open, non-railway staff on the tracks, suspicious vehicles, fences removed and the like – while travelling on the West Coast Main Line and branch lines in the area, particularly between Crewe, Stoke and Stafford, please call the BTP.” 

Back in June, the BTP also issued an appeal after criminals attempted to steal cable from the railway line in the Worksop area. Cable was cut on two consecutive nights in locations near to Shireoaks station, an area that was targeted by cable thieves a few years ago. 

Recently the BTP also released its annual report and statistical bulletin for 2016-17, which made for interesting reading. With regards to theft of railway/commercial property, the force reported that the number of live cable thefts for the year stood at 85, down from the 117 reported in 2015-16. However, non-live cable theft remained pretty stable at 172 – it was 173 the year before. 

It is hoped that the industry efforts to tackle cable theft, which, at times, have included some eccentric prevention methods from covert cameras stashed away in harmless Coke cans to threatening livery and even flying drones, do not start to go backwards. The latest figures could be an anomaly and by the end of the year be even less than the previous 12 months, but it will definitely be worth keeping an eye on the situation.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK

opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

View all News

rail industry focus

View all News

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Year with brand-new infrastructrure to... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, C... more > more last word articles >

interviews

Finding positives in negative short-circuiting devices

09/11/2018Finding positives in negative short-circuiting devices

Sponsored interview  Anything that brings about safety and time-saving benefits is a va... more >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Elizabeth Line: short-term pain for long-term gain?

13/11/2018Elizabeth Line: short-term pain for long-term gain?

Tim Bellenger, director of policy and investigation at London TravelWatch, discusses the deferred opening of the central section of the Elizabeth Line. The announcement on 31 August that the central core section of the Elizabeth Line would not be opening on 9 December was a cause for major dismay and disappointment amongst politicians and... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >

comment

Challenging the perceptions of rail

13/11/2018Challenging the perceptions of rail

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Rail Industry Association (RIA) explains how the RIA Rail Fellowship Programme is challenging people’... more >
Data-driven rail

13/11/2018Data-driven rail

Andy Cross, director of Elastacloud, and Lucy Bealing, from the Elastacloud Rail Centre of Excellence, discuss their innovative collaboration wit... more >
Looking ahead to the Williams Review

13/11/2018Looking ahead to the Williams Review

Darren Shirley, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, takes a look at the government’s root and branch review of the rail s... more >
Digital Railway: All change on the ECML

06/11/2018Digital Railway: All change on the ECML

Network Rail route programme director, Toufic Machnouk, explains why only a radically new approach to contracting will deliver a better service f... more >