Latest Rail News

30.04.12

Legal reform needed to cut cable theft

Cable theft has fallen dramatically, yet it is continuing to cause significant disruption on the rail network, figures from a recent Network Rail summit on the crime show.

The number of incidents fell by 15% in 2011/12, compared to the previous year, from 995 incidents to 844. But the total cost of disruption rose from £16.4m to £18.3m. An increase of 12%, this is due to the theft spreading to more complex parts of the network, Network Rail suggested.

The summit saw train and freight operators, BTP, and the ORR come together to discuss progress and future action to tackle cable theft. The Government is currently working to outlaw cash transactions for scrap metal deals, but Network Rail is calling for full reform of the industry.

This includes an updated licensing scheme to replace voluntary registration, more magistrate and police powers to impose restrictions, and to enter, inspect and enforce closure of yards which break the law, and the requirement of proof of identity and adequate records of customers to be kept by scrap dealers.

Transport minister Norman Baker gave the keynote speech, and said: “We are determined to stamp out the working practices which reward thieves. We are on the case in Government, you are on the case in the industry and police are on the case as well.”

Dyan Crowther, director, operational services for Network Rail, said: “Crimes and delay to passengers and freight are down on last year. However they are still at an unacceptably high level. We firmly believe that without legal reform we will continue to see thousands of hours delay and millions of pounds wasted on these crimes.”

Gary Cooper, head of operations at ATOC, agreed that “further changes to the law” need to be made to ensure continued success.

Tony Berkeley, chairman of the Rail Freight Group, said that cable theft also significantly disrupted freight, causing problems for national retailers, power generators and construction companies.

During 2011, over 1,000 people were arrested in connection with cable theft. Assistant chief constable Alan Pacey of the BTP, said: “We will continue to disrupt and detect thieves who target the railway and will not hesitate to put them before the courts and seek the strongest possible sanctions.”

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