Dramatic fall in railway metal theft is revealed

British Transport Police officers search a yard for stolen metal and railway cable.
British Transport Police officers search a yard for stolen metal and railway cable.
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Dramatic fall in cable thefts on South Yorkshire rail network revealed

The number of delays to passenger and freight services in the county plunged from 823 hours to 160, while compensation costs arising from delays fell from £1.8 million to £892,000.

Network Rail, which manages the network, said the huge decrease was due to ‘work with partners’ such as British Transport Police, to tackle the crime.

Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “Thieves targeting the rail network in South Yorkshire have caused misery to passengers and delay to essential freight supplies for too long.

“The improvements we have seen are down to a number of factors, including BTP targeting thieves and the scrap dealers buying stolen metal.

“Our engineers have developed cables that are harder to steal and easier to identify, and teams around the route are introducing new ways of working to reduce delay and fix thefts more quickly.

“Our rail partners and the public have become our eyes and ears – reporting suspicious activity which helps us to react quickly and minimise delay.

“We have also seen the introduction of new laws under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, to make selling illegal scrap much more difficult.”

Mr Verster added: “This is a great success but we are not complacent this issue is solved.

“Passengers and essential freight services in South Yorkshire were still delayed by 268 hours last year because of cable thefts.

“This is not acceptable.”

Detective Chief Inspector Gill Murray, of British Transport Police, said: “The significant reductions during the past 12 months are encouraging and testament to the work done by police and partner agencies to increase the risk of detection and prosecution to offenders, while also reducing the potential rewards for their criminal behaviour.

“We cannot take our eye off the ball and will continue to develop initiatives and tactics to make life even more challenging for thieves and unscrupulous metal recyclers.

“Tackling metal theft is now embedded across police forces and within several industries and, with new legislation due to come into force later this year, there can be no doubt the UK remains committed to tackling a crime which strikes at the very heart of its infrastructure.”

Train operating companies say the decline in incidents is ‘welcome progress although there is still more to do’.

Stolen cable in numbers:

Decrease in delays to trains in South Yorkshire caused by theft of signal cable - 66%

Fall in overall number of cable theft incidents on the national railway network - 82%

Total delays to passenger and freight trains in South Yorkshire from cable theft - 268hrs

Total delays to services in 2011/12 from metal thefts in South Yorkshire - 823hrs