UK railways winning war against metal thieves

The UK’s rail network is winning its war against thieves that steal metal from its infrastructure, according to figures released today.

The problem of metal theft is not only one of expense in replacing the components and fittings that are stolen, but also one of delays and cancellations forced on the network’s customers while the items are replaced. This has amounted to as many as 6,000 hours of delays per annum that were directly attributable to thefts.

Network Rail, the UK authority that is responsible for maintaining the rail network, has prioritised the problem and will take satisfaction from new figures that show that its concerted efforts have resulted in theft-related delays being reduced by 2,700 hours in 2012/13. Cable theft in the North West and West Midland areas have fallen from 196 incidents in 2010/11, to 150 in 2011/12 and by an additional 36 percent to 96 during 2012/13.

Commenting on the improvement, Network Rail’s, head of operations and performance, Neil Henry, said, ‘These figures show the true success of partnership working and are great news for passengers and our freight customers. The improvements we have seen are down to a number of factors, including British Transport Police targeting thieves and the scrap dealers buying stolen metal. Our engineers are working with suppliers and other industries to make metal – particularly our cables – harder to steal and easier to identify, and our teams around the network introducing new ways of working to reduce delay and fix thefts more quickly. We believe the introduction of new laws following our work with other industries to explain the need for change to government will continue to help to stifle the market for stolen metal.’

Norman Baker, the UK’s rail minister, added, ‘The coalition Government is strongly committed to tackling metal theft and it is heartening to see that the decisive action that has been taken is now paying off with major reductions in this kind of crime. Government intervention in this area has included GBP5m of funding for a task force to crackdown on metal and cable thieves along with the introduction of a ban on cash payments by scrap metal dealers, significantly increasing the fines for all offences under the existing Scrap Metal Dealers Act and providing police officers with sufficient powers of entry to tackle illegal trading in metal yards.’