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Cable theft drops 93% in five years

New figures from Network Rail show a 93% decrease in cable theft over the last five years, with the number of incidents falling from 845 in 2011-12 to 61 so far in 2015-16. 

The latest National Performance Affecting Cable Theft Impact Summary, which includes data collected up until 31 December 2015, highlighted that the industry is still continuing to drive down incidents of cable theft – despite funding for the National Metal Theft Taskforce (NMTT) ending

A spokesman for British Transport Police (BTP) told RTM: “Thanks to the hard work of officers, backed up by legislation, including the 2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act, metal theft has continued to fall on the rail network. 

“While funding for the NMTT has ended, we continue to work closely with colleagues in other forces and partners in affected industries to tackle metal theft, a crime which endangers passenger safety and causes thousands of hours of delays.” 

The total delay caused by cable theft has decreased by 88%, from 344,685 minutes in 2011-12 to 41,865 so far this year. However, this is up slightly on the 37,687 delay minutes caused by metal theft in 2014-15. The report also shows that over half of the incidents occurred on the London North Eastern & EM route, which has seen 33 incidents with a loss of 18,475 minutes. 

Following the spike in cable theft five years ago, BTP introduced the NMTT between 2011 and 2014, while Network Rail funded extra dedicated officers. 

As part of the work, BTP used a Network Rail helicopter, CCTV, forensic marking, trembler alarms and other devices to protect railway cable, and encouraged better security at depots and lineside. 

They created a national intelligence cell to target thieves and share metal theft intelligence with Network Rail and other agencies. They also used automatic number plate recognition to track vehicles around suspect scrap yards and environmental powers to arrest those found burning the sheathing off cable.   

One of the most publicised success stories of the project, as RTM reported in September 2014, was when a gang of six men were sentenced to 17 years in prison between them at Newcastle Crown Court after they stole cable worth £500,000 from train lines across England. The damage they caused cost the industry £2m to repair between 2011 and 2013. 

Detective Chief Inspector Alison Evans, then head of the metal theft unit at British Transport Police, told RTM that she thought high-profile convictions like these had helped deter thieves, as well as the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which makes it easier for police to track thieves through scrap metal dealers’ records, and the improvements in technology and security.


Andy K   09/02/2016 at 12:35

Although the policies, laws and proactive work acheived by many of the agencies and departments - we cannot ignore the fact that copper prices have almost halved over the same period and economic recovery has all helped with this fantastic reduction.

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