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Cable theft crackdown halves rail delays

The number of cable thefts causing rail service disruption has dropped by 67%,

Network Rail said the length of delays caused by theft of metal cables is down 54%, and this was saving the rail industry around £5m.

Efforts to tackle metal theft on the railway was showing benefits, according to the rail operator. The total cost of disruptions, including compensation payments, was down from £18.3 million in 2011/12 to £12.8m this year.

The number of incidents dropped to 285 from 844 year on year, with the number of hours of delay at 2,700 in 2012/13 compared to 5,700 the previous year.

The rail operator said it had been working with partners in the railway and from other infrastructure industries to tackle the problem of metal theft.

Network Rail head of operations and performance Neil Henry said the improvements were down to a number of factors, including the British Transport Police targeting thieves and the scrap dealers buying stolen metal.

He said: “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 are 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.”

The Government has provided £5m of funding for a task force to crack down on metal and cable thieves, and has banned cash payments by scrap metal dealers. It has increased fines for all offences under the existing Scrap Metal Dealers Act and provided police officers with powers of entry to tackle illegal trading in metal yards.

Rail minister Norman Baker said: “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.”

The new Scrap Metal Dealers Bill is due to come into force by October this year.

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