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Cable theft is still causing major delays to the railways, despite a drop in reported incidents, according to a security contractor.
A study of the data by VPS Site Security suggests that cable theft is still occurring five times a week. The BTP Authority, who oversee the rail police force, also records the delays and disruptions to passengers was 23,670 minutes. This is half the previous year, but still equivalent of cable theft causing network delays of over an hour a day.
However, there are wide disparities between regions, VPS points out: Transport for London (TfL), Eastern, and Western divisions saw a doubling of recorded cable thefts, while Scotland’s incidents were halved. Trespass and vandalism, which the police categorise as ‘line of route’ crimes, rose 16pc from 1,278 in 2015/16 to 1,485 in the most recent year.
Peter Lalor, Managing Director of VPS Site Security, says: “Metal theft and vandalism is a serious problem because stealing even just a few pounds worth of metal can leave thousands of railway passengers stranded. The Scrap Metal Dealers Act and the police have helped reduce the theft of copper and cable significantly, but as criminals adapt to get around the new rules, the problem is not going to go away. It could even get worse if we don’t keep an active eye on the issue.”
Rail tracks and cable run through urban and remote areas, so they are vulnerable to tampering, damage or removal by trespassers, vandals, thieves and saboteurs.
Lalor adds: “This latest British Transport Police report shows that cable theft is still a significant crime, not so much because of the value of the stolen metals, but more the devastation to passengers and others when cable assets are unprotected and damaged on the network.”
For the 2016-17 crime statistics, visit the BTP website.
Picture by Mark Rowe: trackside on the line to Southend, Westcliff.