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Cable thieves cost UK rail £15m a year

Six attacks a day

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Copper thieves are costing Network Rail £15m a year and causing 6,000 hours of delays.

In the last three years the thefts have cost £43m, and last year attacks went up 52 per cent to an average of six a day.

In 2010/2011 there were almost 1,000 cable thefts at a cost of £16.5m. But British Transport Police, which now has a dedicated cable theft team, made more than 900 arrests. The cables, used to control signals and points, are then sold on as scrap copper.

There were 995 incidents on the network in 2010/2011, which caused 365,265 minutes of delay and cost Network Rail £12.1m in compensation. The total cost of the crimes was £16.5m.

Including thefts of non-functioning cables from depot yards and engineering works, there were 3,116 incidents in 2010/2011. Of these 1,184 were in the North East and 632 in the Wales and Western area.

As well as working with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, Network Rail is also using motion-sensors, trembler alarms and hidden cameras to catch the thieves. It is also introducing cable which can be marked in such a way that it is identified as Network Rail's property.

Dyan Crowther, director, operational services at Network Rail, said: "These criminal acts have to stop ... I cannot over-emphasise just how serious these crimes are. Cable thieves deny passengers the service they rightly expect and, through the massive cost to the industry, deny everyone improvements to rail services."

The detailed numbers of copper thefts can be downloaded here.

Anyone with information about cable thefts could be line for a £1,000 reward for talking to British Transport Police. ®

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