A spate of metal theft has prompted the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) to call for the re-establishment of the metal theft task force, and for metal dealer licensing to be overseen by the Environment Agency (EA) rather than local authorities.
A BBC investigation has found that the length of time rail passengers are being delayed due to thefts of cable, for the copper inside them, has reached a five-year high. More than three-quarters of the trains affected were in or around London.
The investigation noted that, in 2018, there were 950 hours of delays across more than 7,000 rail journeys in England, Wales and Scotland – up from 400 hours across 3,000 journeys in 2016-17. Network Rail said the costs run into millions of pounds each year.
BMRA spokesperson Antonia Grey said: “In simple terms, metal prices are up and funding for enforcement is down. As shown by reports in the media and in the most recent property crime data from the Office for National Statistics, which are for year-end March 2018, metal theft incidents are increasing.
“Without the funding to properly enforce the Scrap Meal Dealers Act 2013, illegal and unlicensed yards are operating with little fear of detection. Many openly advertise they pay cash for scrap metal, and it is logical to assume that metal thieves will seek out cash-paying operatives.
“Without proper enforcement of the Act, this trend will continue, which is why the BMRA is calling for the re-establishment of a metal theft task force.
”We would also like to see metal dealer licensing being overseen by the EA instead of local authorities, which may help tackle this issue of unlicensed operators.”