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Copper prices push cable thefts to new high

£35m swiped since 2006

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Network Rail is suffering its highest ever levels of copper theft - mostly signalling cables running alongside tracks.

The thefts have waxed and waned with the price of copper but thieves have swiped £35m worth of copper from Network Rail since 2006. The company warns thefts could total £20m a year by 2014 if nothing is done.

It has started a special taskforce to deal with the growing problem, along with British Transport Police and train operators. The group is calling for greater police powers over scrap dealers who sell the copper on, the Guardian reports.

Thieves typically go after signalling lines and are centred in north-east England, which can see up to 40 raids a day.

Network Rail has even resorted to swapping out copper cables with alternative metals on the Sunderland metro line after it was hit by copper thieves 35 times in just over a year.

It has also introduced copper cables which are harder to cut and easier to identify.

The gangs are branching out to target copper in local exchanges, electricity substations, and even church lightning conductors.

Several copper thieves have been injured mistaking live wires for dead ones. ®

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