DELAYS on South Yorkshire’s railway network due to cable theft have fallen, according to Network Rail.
Figures released by British Transport Police show the minutes of delays to trains down 66 per cent, the number of cable thefts affecting rail services down 82 per cent, and compensation costs down by £714,000.
Officials say passengers are reaping the benefits of years of work to tackle the issue of metal theft on the railway.
Network Rail has been working with partners in the railway and from other essential infrastructure industries to tackle this crime which, at its peak, caused more than 800 hours worth of delays to trains in the area in a single year.
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. These figures show the true success of working in partnership with British Transport Police, our customers, other industries and the public to target this blight on our railway.
“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 developing cables that are harder to steal and easier to identify; teams around the route introducing new ways of working to reduce delay and fix thefts more quickly; and 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 following our work with other industries to explain the need for change to government. This will make selling illegal scrap much more difficult.
“This is a great success but we are not complacent that this issue is solved. Passengers and essential freight services in South Yorkshire were still delayed by a total of 268 hours last year because of cable thefts. This is not acceptable. We will continue to work to further reduce the cost and delay caused by thieves on our railway and to bring them to justice.”
Detective Chief Inspector Gill Murray, of British Transport Police, said: “The significant reductions during the past 12 months are encouraging and are testament to the work done by police and partner agencies to increase the risk of detection and prosecution to offenders, whilst also reducing the potential rewards for their criminal behaviour.
“We cannot, however, 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 in an effective manner 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 that the UK remains committed to tackling a crime which strikes at the very heart of its infrastructure.”
East Coast operations director Danny Williams added: “We welcome the progress which is being made in the fight against cable theft. Cable thefts have been one of the leading causes of significant disruption to our services in the past. The railway has worked together to achieve this reduction in delays, though there is still more to do.
“We will continue to co-operate fully with Network Rail, other train operators and the British Transport Police to drive down cable theft further, with support from the communities we serve.”