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Virgin Trains has thrown its weight behind the fight to tackle cable theft, appealing to the public and politicians to get tough on criminals who steal copper cable from the lineside.
Passengers are invited to support the rail industry in tackling the thieves who are causing thousands of minutes of delay and disruption to passengers and costing the country millions of pounds a year.
Representatives of London Midland, Network Rail, British Transport Police and SmartWater joined Virgin Trains’ managers to distribute information to passengers. SmartWater investigators demonstrated the use of their forensic marking technology, which is being used within Coventry and the surrounding West Midlands to capture and to deter thieves.
The West Midlands is one of the hot spots for this nationwide problem. The public can help by reporting cable theft to the British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40. They can also support the rail industry’s campaign for changes to legislation by lobbying their MPs. The Transport Select Committee is currently conducting a ‘Cable theft on the railways’ inquiry.
Virgin Trains' Chief Operating Officer, Chris Gibb said: "Cable theft continues to be an escalating threat to Virgin Trains’ customers and the economy. In 2010/11 there were 6,000 hours of train delay related to more than 3,000 crimes, and British Transport Police made more than 900 arrests. The trend so far this year is worse, despite a 20 per cent drop in the price of copper. On a single day recently Virgin Trains experienced 60 hours of delay.
“The cost to the railways alone reaches around £19million a year to replace lost cable and to compensate passenger and freight operators for the delays caused, while the wider impact on lost business and productivity accounts for another £19million.
“But cable theft is not a victimless crime that is all about money. Delayed customers are people with lives to lead - jobs to get to, family to see and hospital appointments to make. The cable thieves are disrupting people's lives, as well as undermining the efforts of rail staff to run a punctual railway.
"Along with the rest of the rail industry, the telecomms industry and many others, we hope that the Government will urgently make changes to regulations and legislation to make it more difficult to dispose of stolen scrap copper, given the impact this is having on the economy."
Wallace Weatherill, London Midland’s Operations and Safety Director said: “Cable theft has a huge effect on our customers. In this year alone some 11,988 minutes of delay, 114 full cancellations and 163 part cancellations have come about because of thoughtless criminality.”
“We are working very closely with Network Rail and our neighbouring train operators to do whatever we can to raise awareness of the crime and its impact. All of our staff are on high alert to report suspicious behaviour, and we have supplemented this by posters at stations and on trains.”
Dyan Crowther, Director Operational Services at Network Rail, said: “Our industry is under attack from metal thieves. Every day hundreds of passengers and essential freight deliveries are being disrupted and delayed. We are doing all we can to protect the network; including funding extra British Transport Police officers, using CCTV, forensic marking techniques and other technology.
“Despite that crimes continue to increase. We believe that the only way to significantly reduce metal crime is to take away the illegal market, and that more robust legislation and police powers are needed to achieve that.”