Monday 30 Apr 2012


Region & Route:
| Eastern: Anglia
| Eastern
  • Number of cable theft incidents increase by 52% in the past financial year
  • Crimes falling since January 2012
  • Network Rail and Police clamp down on thieves with specialist operations and step up high visibility patrols
  • Full legislative reform believed to be best way to tackle problem

Cable theft in the Anglia route has increased by 52% in the last financial year but since January the number of incidents has begun to fall, new figures released today (Monday April 30th) have shown.

The Anglia route, which covers the lines out of Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street, has been targeted by organised crime gangs as well as opportunist thieves stealing smaller amounts of cable. However, following extensive investment by Network Rail and some high profile court cases, crimes have started to fall.

Crimes went up from 74 incidents in 2010/11 to 113 in 2011/12. In 2011, Network Rail and the British Transport Police set up a new cable theft taskforce in Anglia to tackle the issue. The Anglia route now has a dedicated crime team who run more dedicated patrols to target hotspots as well as using a range of technology from thermal imaging cameras, which scan large areas, to real-time motion-sensitive cameras hidden in the rail infrastructure. Since January, the number of incidents has gradually decreased.

Dave Ward, Network Rail route managing director, said: “With the price of copper remaining high, thieves are continuing to target the railway for metal to sell as scrap. We have seen an increase in the number of cable incidents from last year but our massive effort with the British Transport Police and the train companies is having an effect.

“The number of incidents is still too high and continues to have an impact on passengers and the rail industry. We firmly believe that without legal reform we will continue to see thousands of hours of delay and millions of pounds wasted on these crimes."

The government has indicated that cash transactions for scrap will be outlawed. However, Network Rail and the wider rail industry are united in calling for full reform of the 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers Act. This needs to include:

• an updated, fully funded licensing scheme to replace the voluntary registration currently in place.

• magistrates should also have the power to impose restrictions upon, and ultimately enforce the closure of, yards that fail to keep to the law.

• police powers to enter, inspect and if necessary close scrap dealers are essential. At present they may only enter registered premises with a warrant.

• a requirement for scrap metal dealers to require proof of identity and to keep adequate records about their customers.

• Additional requirements on itinerant metal dealers’ vehicle licences to enable those operating outside the law to be impounded.

Mr Ward added: “We are grateful for the public support we continue to receive in reporting suspicious activity – both on the railway and at disreputable scrap dealers. We will continue to do all we can to stop these thieves but it is clear the law needs substantial change in order to take away the easy market for illegal scrap."

Nationally, the total direct cost to the industry, and ultimately the taxpayer and country, continue to rise from £16.4m to £18.3m; an increase of 12% because the thefts have spread to busier and more complex parts of the network.

Across the country, Network Rail has invested millions of pounds to protect key locations and funding extra British Transport Police officers. This has combined with public support in reporting criminals and improved sentencing in courts.

The Anglia route is a key route for the 2012 Olympics. Before, during and after the games route will step up its patrols, as well as having the use of the Network Rail helicopter, and increasing the use of technology at cable theft hotspots.

Detective Inspector Nick Brook, of British Transport Police’s dedicated cable and metal theft team, said: “We have teams of officers patrolling on foot, in vehicles and with police dogs, out each and every night gathering intelligence and conducting high visibility patrols to catch and deter these mindless criminals. We’re clamping down on metal thieves with our increased use of technology and specialist operations in key hotspot areas.

“We will continue to work closely with Network Rail and train operating companies and share intelligence with Home Office forces on known suspects and monitor their movements. Stealing railway cable is incredibly dangerous, and anyone seeking to do so risks serious injury – or even death – through electrocution, all for a significantly small profit.”

Last month, two cable thieves who delayed around 17,000 train passengers heading to Stansted airport were jailed for over five years. Paul Davies (40) and Matthew Taylor (40) both of Basildon in Essex, pleaded guilty to stealing cable from the railway at St. Albans Crown Court on Monday, 26 March. Davies was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, whilst Taylor received two years three months behind bars.

Ruud Haket, Managing Director, Greater Anglia said: "It is encouraging that we have seen a reduction in the instances of cable theft so far this year, but it is important that we continue to remain vigilant in partnership with our colleagues at Network Rail and the British Transport Police to further reduce the effect of these crimes, and to work towards the introduction of firmer legislation."

Kevin Frazer, Operations Director for c2c said: “Last year cable theft was one of the biggest causes of delays for c2c passengers. We’ve been doing what we can with Network Rail and British Transport Police to improve the situation, but the rail industry can’t resolve this problem on its own. We believe the Government needs to introduce new legislation tackling this issue, and that thousands of our passengers will benefit from it.”

Notes to editors

The Anglia route consists of the West Anglia, Great Eastern and Thameside routes – encompassing the counties of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and parts of Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Greater London. The majority of services are operated by Greater Anglia (West Anglia and Great Eastern) and c2c (Thameside), though First Capital Connect and East Midlands Trains also provide services to Cambridge and Norwich respectively.


Figures for the Anglia route

Route No. of Incidents Delay minutes 1 Cost*

2011/12 113 37,497 £1,691,373

2010/11 74 21,055 £1, 089, 809

2009/10 79 40, 632 £2,643,979

1 Delay minutes show the inconvenience experienced by the passenger and vary with each incident. If the theft is on a busy mainline then they rack up much quicker than on quieter suburban lines.

* Compensation costs (known as schedule 8 costs) are paid to train and freight operators for the disruption caused by the delay. This is a substantial part of the cost to the industry of cable theft but does not include the cost of staff time to repair and replace the cable, replacement cable itself and the cost of mitigation measures such as security patrols and investment in new technology.

Number of incidents for the Anglia route for the last financial year (Incidents are counted every four weeks and not monthly).

April 15 to May 13: 5
May 13 to June 10: 5
June 10 to July 8: 8
July 8 to August 5: 26
August 5 to September 2:10
September 2 to September 30: 7
September 30 to October 28: 11
October 28 to November 25: 8
November 25 to December 23: 9
December 23 to January 28: 10
January 28 to February 25: 7
February 25 to March 24: 5
March 24 to April 27: 2

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - South East route
020 3357 7969

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

Follow us on Twitter: @networkrail
Visit our online newsroom: