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New scrap metal law comes into force to tackle cable theft

The new law clamping down on rogue scrap metal dealers, which has been warmly welcomed by the rail industry, comes into force today. It is hoped it will make it much more difficult for cable thieves to sell on stolen metal.

The new Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which replaces the 1964 Act, consolidates dealers and motor salvage operators under one licensing regime, makes it tougher to get a licence and allows councils to revoke it, and requires sellers to provide ID at the point of sale and have it recorded by the dealer.

It also makes it easier for police and councils to inspect sites, raises the level of fines that can be issued for offences, and creates a central public register (hosted by the Environment Agency) of all licensed dealers.

Although the impact of cable and metal theft on the rail network has been reduced since its peak, in the first half of this financial year (up to 14 September 2013) there has been 95 incidents of cable theft affecting train performance, causing 30,928 delay minutes and an estimated compensation cost of £1,053,649. This does not include the cost of staff time to repair and replace the cable, replacement cable itself and the cost of mitigation measures such as security patrols and investment in new technology.

Neil Henry, head of operations and performance at Network Rail, said: “Rail passengers and essential freight deliveries are still suffering at the hands of metal thieves who target our network. While we have made significant progress in reducing the impact of these crimes, disruption is still at an unacceptably high level.

“We have maintained for some time that legal reform was sorely needed in order to support our own efforts to prevent thefts and welcome the new Scrap Metal Dealers Act.”

Gary Cooper, director of operations and engineering at ATOC, said: “The Scrap Metal Dealers Act is excellent progress in the fight against cable thieves, whose actions cause delays and disruption for thousands of our customers.”

Maggie Simpson, executive director at RFG, added: “Metal theft continues to be a problem for rail freight customers, and we are very pleased that these new powers will enable more to be done to reduce the disruption and cost to business from this crime.”

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther of British Transport Police added: “Today marks a very significant milestone in the fight against metal thieves. The Act demands a greater level of awareness and responsibility from traders, ensuring they verify who they are doing business with, but it also protects law abiding recyclers from unscrupulous traders.

“It is vital that scrap metal traders are aware of the changes, including the new licensing regulations. Metal thieves cause misery for thousands of people, whether targeting the rail network, power cables or telecommunications and today’s changes signal the introduction of a more robust licensing scheme to be monitored by local authorities."

The Local Government Association has produced guidance giving more details on the new law and licensing regime.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]

New scrap metal BOTTOM IMAGE


Ricp   02/10/2013 at 14:05

It would help if Network Rail ensured old cables were removed, and contractors were instructed, checked and not paid until new cable runs were secured in troughing or trunking. At my local station in North London, Crouch Hill Overground - Gospel Oak to Barking line, the new cabling was mixed with old, and nor secured. The problem continues at numerous locations on this important subsidiary route, and will be a problem with ongoing infrastructure works, and before too long electrification. NETWORK RAIL ANGLIA, GET IT SORTED!

Doc   04/10/2013 at 13:57

We completely agree with Ricp and have the perfect solution!

Dave   04/10/2013 at 14:41

Yet another initiation that will only inconvenience the law abiding. Rogue scrap metal dealers and their suppliers will carry on as normal because it is lucrative work, no tax and just picked off walls.. Scrap dealers get new overheads to pay for in a already over regulated market. Ordinary people will soon have to carry ID just to get a bus ticket. Your papers please.

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