Cable theft rail delays mount up

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CABLE thefts on South Yorkshire’s railways are causing thousands of hours of travel misery for passengers in the region - with attacks on the network this month up by almost half compared to April last year.

The county’s rail commuters have been forced to endure 2,700 hours of delays and cancellations over the past three years, and Network Rail has paid out more than £5 million compensation to train companies in the same period.

Spurred on by soaring metal prices, thieves target power cables near tracks and the wire in railway signals and points, selling it on for scrap.

Network Rail, which released the figures, says South Yorkshire is a ‘hotspot’ for cable thefts.

Richard Lungmuss, the firm’s route director, said: “These criminal acts have to stop. Cable thieves deny passengers the service they rightly expect and through the massive cost to the industry deny everyone improvements to rail services.”

Last year there were 132 cable thefts in South Yorkshire, including 81 in Sheffield, causing 729 hours of delays and costing more than £1.5m in compensation.

Since the beginning of April, there have been 20 attacks on the rail infrastructure, up by 48 per cent on the same period last year.

DCI Derek O’Mara, from British Transport Police, said: “We are working to tackle the issue and in the past few months have seen significant jail sentences handed down to cable thieves put before the courts.”

The force arrested 200 suspected cable thieves over the last 12 months, and has invested in extra officers to combat the crime.

Network Rail is also introducing a new type of cable that is easier to identify and harder to steal than traditional copper wire.

Anyone with information about cable theft should call police on 0800 405040 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.