Metal cable thieves have cost taxpayers over £280,000 and delayed journeys by 89 hours in the past year.
The theft of signalling cables, electric wires and metal equipment has cost Network Rail more than quarter of a million pounds since – with the bill falling to the taxpayer.
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.
The number of offences has risen 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.
Network Rail and the BTP 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.
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.
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."