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Government cable theft funding ‘disappointing’ – MPs

No immediate extra funding is available to tackle cable theft on the railways, despite Transport Select Committee recommendations to invest as “a matter of urgency”.

Current funds of £5m are going towards the British Transport Police (BTP) metal theft task force, with the aim to increase prosecutions, disrupt organised gangs and carry out spot checks on metal dealers.

The Transport Select Committee also suggested that aggravated trespass of the railway should become a new criminal offence, but the DfT said: “Given the progress it is making with legislative measures to tackle metal theft... the Government does not consider at this stage that further funding is likely to be required to extend the scope or duration of the metal theft task force, but will keep the issue under review.”

The DfT has tabled amendments to prohibit most cash payments for scrap metal, to require records for selling scrap metal and to increase the maximum fines for breaking these rules.

It stated: “This [will] provide a direct means of tracking the financial audit trail for sales of scrap metal, and hence go a substantial way towards enabling the identification of the sellers of stolen material.”

Chairman of the Transport Select Committee, Louise Ellman MP, said: “I am disappointed that the Government will not provide further resources for the police to tackle metal theft despite BTP’s leading work in this area.

“Cable theft cost Network Rail £16m last year and disrupted [millions of] journeys, so the Government should not sit back and wait whilst these figures are repeated. The Government’s announcement must be translated into action if this unacceptable situation is to be addressed with the urgency that is required.”

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Nonsuchmike   07/06/2014 at 18:57

It's not so much the actual cost of the thefts - although £16 million is not to be sneezed at - it is the inconvenience and delay to which trains, passengers, staff and freight are put, which makes up the "hidden" cost of such disruption. Secret coding of materials, innovative prevention initiatives and heavy punitive fines, confiscations and even imprisonment of perpetrators AND traders should all be used as deterrents, and promulgated at both national and local levels.

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