Network Rail: South Yorkshire metal cable thieves have stolen £280k from county's railways and caused 89 hours of disruption over last year

Metal cable thieves targeting South Yorkshire’s railways have cost Network Rail £280,000 and caused 89 hours of disruption since April last year.

Saturday, 14th May 2022, 9:04 pm

The figures have been released by Network Rail, as the public body works with British Transport Police (BTP) to crack down on South Yorkshire metal cable thieves.

A Network Rail spokesperson said on Friday (May 13) that the number of offences has soared in the past month, as the price of copper increases, with incidents being reported daily in the first week of April.

Cash trades for scrap metal are illegal without exception and subject to unlimited fines.

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Network Rail and British Transport Police check on signalling cables alonside tracks in Sheffield. The number of cases of cable thefts across South Yorkshire, which officials say is being hit hardest nationally, soared last month.

Olga Barannikova, Area Customer Services and Performance Manager for Network Rail, said: “The impact of railway cable theft mustn’t be underestimated. Not only does it waste taxpayers’ money and frustratingly make passengers late, but it also holds up the delivery of important freight supplies and takes key railway staff away from their work.

“We’re constantly finding new, clever ways to catch offenders, and I know that this new push with the BTP will help us to hammer home that criminal behaviour – trespass, vandalism and theft – will not be tolerated on Britain’s railway.”

Network Rail and the BTP say they are now using new ways to catch thieves in the act, so that the criminals can be taken to court.

Learning from successful prosecutions, teams are stepping up their proactive patrols and using real time surveillance techniques to monitor hotspot areas.

The theft of signalling cables, electric wires and metal equipment from areas including Rotherham, Sheffield and Aldwarke has cost Network Rail over £280,000 since April 2021.

As an arms-length Government body, this cost is ultimately paid by taxpayers.

Passengers have also had their journeys delayed by 89 hours in the last year as each offence causes widespread disruption.

When a cable is cut, trains are brought to a standstill, which leads to frustrating delays that have a knock-on effect across the network.

Officials say South Yorkshire is the area in England that is being hit hardest by metal cable thefts.

PC Darren Martin from BTP's disruption team, said: "The theft of cable from the railway is far from a victimless crime.

"It costs the rail industry millions of pounds each year, causing delays and increases in costs to projects which have a knock-on effect on passengers.

"Every day rail users feel the impact on their journeys when thieves strike and ultimately it is the tax payer who forks out.

"Just like ourselves and Network Rail, the courts also take the theft of cable extremely seriously and we will do all we can to bring those responsible to justice.

"We continue to work with Network Rail to modernise and enhance our resources to catch cable thieves in the act - I would assure those responsible for the recent spate of cable thefts in south Yorkshire that it is only a matter of time before they are caught."

Some action has been taken by the Government to make it harder to sell stolen metal, in recent years, such as making it compulsory for sellers to show identification.