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Cable Theft on Railways Fall Sharply

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The problem of people stealing cable from British railways peaked in 2011, at a time when there was a lucrative market in scrap copper wire.

The fall in railway cable thefts has led to an equal fall in delays, according to Network Rail. In 2010-11, there were 995 cable thefts on British railways, causing more than 1,000 minutes of delays each day. By 2013-14, there were 179 cable thefts, causing around 190 minutes of delays each day - a fall of 80% on both counts.

The new figures hark back to 2004-05 and 2005-06, when there were fewer than 100 thefts.
In November 2011, the government launched a "metal theft taskforce" with £5m funding, and introduced the scrap metal dealers legislation in 2013. The change in law, which made it harder to sell stolen metal, had beencrucial. The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 required all dealers to be licensed, banned cash payments to mobile scrap collectors and gave the police and councils more power to inspect their premises. The act also required sellers to produce identification and proof of address.

This has reduced the amount of ready cash that was previously available to the thieves. Another factor is the decline in the price of scrap copper wire which peaked at £4,400 a tonne in 2011, and has since fallen to around £3,000 per tonne.

Even though the Rail companies have dedicated response teams, it's not a quick job. A single inch of cable stolen can translate into long delays. Some cables have up to 48 tiny copper strands in them that all need to be reconnected at both ends and tested before things can get moving again.