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back to article Bold as brass metal thieves disrupt rail, comms, electric

The growing threat from metal theft – and the no-nonsense response by authorities determined to stamp it out – were highlighted yesterday as jail sentences of three years apiece were handed down to two Newark men convicted of stealing 25 metres of copper cabling worth just £44. The value of the metal involved may seem trivial, …

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Target the scrap yards

Much more cost effective. For too long some of these businesses have turned a blind eye to where the metal has come from. The same goes for yards accepting obviously nicked vehicles and slamming them in the crusher before the police can identify them..

Make the yards more cautious, and with no market for the metal, the incentive to nick it will be severely curtailed

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Headmaster

Earl.

Cease this nonsense forthwith.

"worth just £44."

"at a total cost of £75,000"

"£35m since 2006/7"

"reached a low of $3,000/tonne"

"breaking the $10,000/tonne barrier."

Please, standardise the currency expression throughout articles. Yes, international market prices are in USD and local costs are in £Sterling, but is it really too much effort to maintain the use of one or the other exclusively (or both together using parantheses for the alternative expression) over 6 paragraphs? You underestimate the laziness (and pickiness) of some of your devoted readers!

With regards to the actual story, it's good to see some of these idiots getting put away for a decent stretch. The impact (and safety risk) of such thefts is exponentially greater than the material gain. The only better result we could possibly hope for is that one of these morons tries to lift a live 400kV line or gas main. Instant Justice, served very hot indeed.

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units

It is more accurate to use the native figures as you do not need to apply exchange rates of the exact time the figure was quoted. If you want to look up the excahgne rate go ahead. But the costs were to Britain, and orignally calculated in £. The market rates are always in $ and in some ways are a different unit.

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Don't worry

The morons have and have suffered in consequence, and been mown down by trains as they nick signalling cable as well.

http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/man_electrocuted_in_burglary_1_214367

They also can't tell the difference between fibre and copper cable.

Mind you when the likes of EDF say they are worried thieves electrocuting themselves...

http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/local/metal_thieves_risk_their_lives_1_626848?

well..

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Flame

Tough network there.....

This story sounds like an example of the blame game, that bullshit that rules work places, politics, and justice. In the blame game, no matter how complex something is, all consequences can be laid totally at the feet of one individual. For example in the corporate world, the feet are usually the most poorly paid of all involved.

> The value of the metal involved may seem trivial, but the consequence was definitely not.

> Network Rail claimed this single theft led to some 36 trains being fully or partially cancelled

> and a further 115 delayed – at a total cost of £75,000 to the operating companies.

At the end of the day, if Network Rail's network was dependent on 25m of copper, 44UKP worth, then they are to blame for the canceled trains as much as the thieves. How unresilient to damage must the rail network be if one incident can cause such problems? The reality of the world is that theft happens, so for NR to enable it such that 1 theft can have such knock-on effects.... well, NR are not fit for purpose. Though let's be honest, the purpose that public transport was privatised was to make cronies of the government rich.

Right, just tried to look up their share price over the years..... Network Rail are a limited company: they are totally privately owned.

Not a PLC would be a panacea, but NR being totally private explains why so many stations don't actually have any competition when it comes to food, drinks, shops, etc.. I wonder how many involved with NR are also involved with buses? Once you have those two in control, you can jack the prices up so they are close to what it costs to run a car!

NR saved at least 44UKP from their costs by not having a spare parts to hand or the staff to fix it fast, which the owners no doubt rejoiced over, but constant trimming of fat means that there isn't the needed buffer for some events that are inevitable.

NR could save more money by removing all locks anywhere in stuff they own, and sell the locks and keys for scrap. Because theft is illegal, if anything happens as a consequence of there being no locks then it can't be NR's fault. Just like this theft of Cu.

That is what the blame game says, and that is why it is bollocks. Do not play that game, do not engage with people when they try to. They use lots of logical fallacies to get people to go along with them, false dilemmas are the most common. Learn to recognise them, and call people out when they use them.

Of course, that 75000 figure will be the mathematical maximum the op co's could have made to make the thieves look as bad as possible (and hence make the company appear to be poor, damaged little victims. Like a kitten that has wondered onto a motorway. Companies are not people, they cannot actually be hurt, they are a truck to the kitten in the preceding analogy). The op co's will have assumed that the trains were full to capacity, all customers bought the most expensive option of ticket (a single, no rail cards or discounts, no pre-bookings, etc.). In reality, the trains would have been mostly empty (or over capacity), there would be very few ticket nazis on the trains, so many people will not have paid at all, those that have paid will seek to get their prices as low as possible.

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RE: Tough network there....

Network Rail is a not for dividend company whose profits should go straight back into investment in the rail network. It was set up by the previous government to replace the hopelessly inept Railtrack the plc set up by the government before that to squeeze all the money out of the network, neglect track maintenance and cause a number of rail disasters. OK that may not have been the intention but it certainly was the result.

Oh and Network Rail only runs the stations and track, they don't set the fares. Or employ any "ticket nazis" that would be the train operators, most of whom have shareholders and thus dividends to pay.

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Grenade

Baron.

"Right, just tried to look up their share price over the years..... Network Rail are a limited company: they are totally privately owned."

Totally privately owned by the State, I think you'll find. All NR "profits" are re-invested into NR. Income is from the DfT by form of grant, Train Operating Companies (TOCs) for their rights of access to the network, lease/rent of properties (including the shops at stations). In effect, it's a government office which has been spun off the chancellor's books, but is still under the government's control.

If you would like to suggest a method of funding redundant backup signalling systems for the entire rail network without having to resort to massive increases in fares or taxation, and also without taking more money away from paying for sorely-needed additional rolling stock to enable the extension of overfull trains to deal with a demand that far outstrips supply, I'm sure HMG will be most grateful to receive it. However, your total lack of knowledge of anything rail-related is going to make that unlikely.

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Anonymous Coward

I've no doubt that network rail could change their processes

but that avoids and ignores the basic thievery of time and materials that is going on!

The overall cost is substantially more than £75044 when lost productivity is factored in. If it is required that NR change then who will make the investment and at real what cost. The taxpayer and the user, not the thief of the scrap metal merchants.

I'd much prefer to see those who steal and those who fence the stolen materials get punitively hammered to deter the commission and continuation of the thievery. If that means a little more form filling then the (private) scrap metal industry will either pass the costs one or weed out the idiots who permit this larceny to continue.

BTW, the trains that go through Newark often have a high occupancy or pick up a lot of other passengers further south at they make their journey to/from London. They are often used by people, like me, heading to important commercial meetings set up to bring people from all over Europe together or home to their families after a very testing day/week/month away. Their journey is screwed up because some thieving git is prepared to risk getting electrocuted for £44.

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Flame

estimate probably cautiously low

The £75,000 estimated loss by the train operating companies resulting from the number of trains stated as cancelled and delayed struck me as being cautious. Apart from other costs caused by delaying journeys of long suffering passengers, many of these delayed passengers will have been able to claim refunds. Special busses would have had to have been provided, and in some cases passengers missing connections would have had to have been accomodated in hotels overnight.

That number would have been the claimable loss to the TOCs but is probably only a fraction of the true cost to the travelling public. So, getting locked up for a very long time seems fair punishment to me. Leaving one or 2 of the fried corpses of metal thieves who electrocuted themselves visible on the sides of the tracks for a few days before cleaning up the mess would also discourage any others interested in trying their hand. But perhaps our society has become too scared of the sight of human remains for such an idea to be realistic.

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ticket nazis

Two words that tell everything for anyone who CBA to read all your waffle.

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Anonymous Coward

Rant of the week?

I think we all feel a bit like this from time to time. Deal with it ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

What?

"At the end of the day, if Network Rail's network was dependent on 25m of copper, 44UKP worth, then they are to blame for the canceled trains as much as the thieves"

Ok, hows about this: Take the spreader bar off a set of points, probably about a fiver's worth of metal scrap value, if that. If noticed, this will stop the line while it is replaced, parts coming from the nearest depot. Probably coming via car, becuase the track has been stopped, it will also precipitate checking all the points in the same area. If it's not noticed and a train goes over the points at high speed, you'll be looking at tens possibly hundreds of deaths.

There is no way to check to see if a spreader bar is present, other than visaully by either walking the track or using a video equiped inspection train, however if some scrote steals this seemingly small piece of kit for a bit of cash the consequences are frightening.

The main point is that it's utterly irrisponsible to steal from the railway, it puts lives at danger.

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its not a case of £44 unit

If they had laid 2 wires along the track for a cost of £88 then the theives would have just doubled their profits.

When our signalling cable was stolen they got it working again in less than a day. That is Discover fault in morning, run some tests remotely, find send crew out to see why failed, crew measure how much wire is missing crew call back that wire is missing, send another crew with skills and materials to fix wire, fix wire, test wire, check safety, get trains and crews back to where they should be.

Also should not just look at cost. If I took six £0.20 bolts of the hub of your car even with triple redudency then your car would be useless until you fix it.

I hate train ompanies as much as the next guy being on southeastern, but this is one fault that should lie with the theif not the network.

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Bronze badge

Depends which 25m

I think that modern SSI signalling systems are redundantly cabled, and indeed use fibre as well, but if you nick the 25m of cable from the control cabinets to the signal heads on a gantry, well it wouldn't matter how diverse your routing was. Also it would only take one signal head to go faulty on a main-line to cause an awful lot of disruption.

I believe Network Rail are dong as much as they can to replace copper with fibre over long distances, but it costs millions to to re-configure a signalling system, and check that it has all been re-installed correctly, remember Clapham.

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FAIL

What goes around comes around

Now ACPO want registration of scrap metal dealers, funny they didn't say anything when the last labour government repealed the scrap metal dealers act which required all scrap dealers to be registered and keep transaction details.

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Grenade

Metal theives

Or should I call them sabatours it is time and beyond time that the Courts got real with these scumbags three years is not long enough compaired to the ammount of disruption they cause.

Hand grenade cos its the only metal I'd trust them with.

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Anonymous Coward

scumbags

lock 'em up and sell the key for scrap metal.

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Anonymous Coward

Surely some mistake...

A sentence based on the impact of the offence? It's almost as if the judge applied logic.

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Badgers

Subterranean Homesick Tea Leaves

I know that Virgin Media have had a number of fibre optic cables badly damaged recently. The suspicion is that thieves believe them to be copper until they've got them out the ground. Obviously they aren't going to hang around and apologise, but it's still a bloody pain.

<dailymail>I blame the poor state of science education! </dailymail>

[Badgers because they live under the ground too.]

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Tracks going missing?

People have been stealing metal from roofs for years, if BR ran more trains, I think that would deter the the thieves somewhat.

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@newtonslife

They were just about to. It was a disused section NR was planning on bringing back into service.

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More trains isn't the problem.

Railway lines run cable in nice concrete ducts alongside the tracks, with handy plastic tubes under the rails to make removal and replacement quick, easy and low cost. Thus a bunch of lads in High Viz jackets on the lineside can wip the cable out between trains.

In BR days drivers always knew where work gangs would be, but do you want to bet in todays fragmented system that they don't and gangs turn up unannounced to the train drivers.

Even if the driver does contact the signalling centre to report the gang, they would be off before BTP could get there, all trains have cab radio nowadays. The signalling centre knows instantly a signal develops a fault, so you can guess how long it takes a response to get to a site in the middle of nowhere. Signals are positioned for the convenience of trains, not road access.

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Pint

Sounds like a good time

To replace all that expensive copper with nice fast fibre-optics :)

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Go

Thats....

ok for comms, but id love to see electricity traveling by light.

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FAIL

Traction

Good luck using fibre-optic cables for traction power. Power cables are the ones really worth stealing, although they're probably so heavy that special handling equipment will be needed to pinch any length of it.

I suspect that lots of signalling cable is already fibre optic, but does the kind of low-life who steals signalling cable know the difference before they rip it out?

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Pint

Cu $2500 / ft^3

As soon as I read that copper was $10,000 per tonne, I raced to calculate the value of a copper penny (Canada/US).

About 2 to 3 cents each.

But, the latest versions have only a trace of copper. The older ones from the 1980s and previous were virtually 100% copper, and are thus worth more as copper than cash.

By the way, this steep price rise is going to have obvious impacts on the economics of electric vehicles. I assume that 100hp worth of electricity requires some serious conductors.

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Go

Yup

US ones are mostly zinc these days - one of the many useless stats I got from the West Wing.

What's ironic is when you consider the name of it. Given the US (and Canada) use cent, not penny, it's odd that they've "borrowed" the UK name in the singular, but not the plural.

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Jobs Horns

The program of atomic fingerprinting the metal.....

The metals and their alloys ALL contain very fine amounts of allying materials and they all have assorted isotopical variations on the alloys and where the metals were sourced from.

It's basically the same as fingerprinting the metal.

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Here's a thought. It's crazy, but...

...how about addressing the social problems that lead people to be desperate enough to attempt stealing LIVE ELECTRICAL CABLE in the first place? You know, things like job creation, harsher onshoring/offshoring/rightshoring/fuck-you-shoring laws? How about social services with a liveable minimum wage and a move back towards a fully fleshed-out economy with manufacturing and industry located within your own bloody borders instead of farmed out to whomever rapes and pillages their own countrymen most?

If people weren’t starving and completely unable to get work, you would probably see these incidents dropping significantly. You’ll never erase such things entirely, but most people do these kinds of things out of desperation – NOT GREED. Sort your ****ing country out. Don’t waste time and money on pointless crackdowns and enforcement. Every dollar you spend oppressing your people or making life more difficult for businesses is a dollar that could have been /better/ spent on social services, job creation and scio-economic and political reform.

*sigh*

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Anonymous Coward

we are dealing with it!

We gave the metal thieves an ASBO that stipulates absolutely no stealing for 3 months.

Job done.

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Not the US

"If people weren’t starving and completely unable to get work, you would probably see these incidents dropping significantly."

Since were civilised we don't leave people to starve, but no matter what you do some people will still resort to crime. Were not talking about shop lifting here.

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Social problems addressed

I thought the "social problems" in this story were rather well addressed by the sentences. Should encourage other "desperately poor" people to leave our infrastructure alone. How do these "desperately poor" people transport their stolen cables, in a stolen car?

Nobody starves in the socialist wonderland that Britain has become.

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Re : thecakeis(not)alie

What!?, But, just WHAT!!!???

Have you ever been in a Chav palace? I wish I could have afforded the stuff that unemployed neighbours of mine have. Their car is even better than the 5 year old thing I drive.

42 inch flat screen TV, play stations and X-boxes. Ipods for all the kids and a mobile for the youngest (8yo.) And all of this is paid for out of my taxes!

Don't talk about starving people in the UK! Unable to work? When we have half of Europe coming here to work. there is work but the lazy bastards won't do it.

These thefts are based on greed only. Pure and simple greed.

I think it's about time you grew an IQ.

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Megaphone

"I wish I could have afforded the stuff that unemployed neighbours of mine have."

You say that, and yet I don't see you quitting your job to go on the dole...

I think people who say things like that should either quit their job or shut up. After all, it's money for nothing isn't it? And you DO have the option to take it. Simply stop working and get yourself diagnosed with something. If it was such a great life you would do it right now.

So the toerags have a large telly and a few iPods, wow so what do they do all day? Play GTA4 and watch Jeremy Kyle in high def? What a shit life.

For all their worldly so-called possessions, rented from the state, they will never be free like the working man, because they simply cannot afford real freedom. Anyone who says they envy that is either a fool or a liar.

/my 2 cents

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Re : AC @ 13:46

"You say that, and yet I don't see you quitting your job to go on the dole..."

You see there's a small problem with that. Because I served in the RN for twenty years, and had my health fucked up for life I now have a small pension. It's not enough to live on but it is enough to stop me getting any and all of the benifits that others are getting.

There was a time, nearly a year, that I was unemployed. I received £35 per week and that was it. I ended up selling stuff so my family could eat. I actually suggested to my wife that she leave me, taking the kids, as _they_ would be looked after.

So I've tried 'putting up' as you've suggested. It nearly cost me everything.

Now, how about you following the other half of your advice.

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@thecakeis(not)alie

I'm going to put the same comment as some of the others, but in a far more appropriate way: In the UK, there is no need for anyone to starve. We have a good, comprehensive system of social care that, in the USA, would be regarded as fantasy.

Unlike some others who seem to be from my country, I am extremely proud of that fact.

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Anonymous Coward

QED

So:

the government bails out the banks with 200 billion of "quantitive easing" so they can reduce the ratio of money they have created vs money they've received to something slightly closer to sanity, and then start lending to UK companies at reasonable rates;

the banks think, hang on, the government are holding the interest rate we pay at 0.5%, so we can boost our holdings quite enough by lending at 5 to 7%, which frees up all that QE money for us to make more profits with, meaning higher bonuses & trebles all round;

but, the property market is still stuffed with unrealistic asset prices, so where can we make quick money this time ?

ah, commodity markets, banks get special treatment there (e.g. no cap on how much we bet).

Your tax money at work.

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A title is required

Just think. BT could make a fortune selling off their old copper network! They could use the profits to create a shiney new fibre network!

And pigs might fly of course.

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"consequences of this particular theft were said to be "vast""

But not vast enough, apparently, to invest in adequate security precautions -- which, come to think of it, could have been done fairly cheaply by passing a monitoring current through the length of the track.

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@Harry

Do you think they'd be monitoring *unused* track?

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Eh ?

>> But not vast enough, apparently, to invest in adequate security precautions

And what would you do when trying to protect cables that run across open countryside for hundreds/thousands of miles ?

Actually Network Rail HAVE been doing something. For some works they've taken to putting cable ducts underneath the track bed - so buried a full metre down under the ballast and tracks !

And as to the retard who said it's Network Rail's for not having resiliance. Well words fail me. Ther emay be resiliance at some parts of the network, but this is kinda point-point networking. The signal box needs to talk to the signal - but the signal doesn't need to talk to anything else. So what do you propose ? Whilst it would be physically possible (but very expensive) to arrange backup routes, it would also be largely useless since compromised signalling is not something you can ignore !

It only needs one signal out of action and traffic will stop. Yes they will have some contingency plans (just like there are procedures for single line working) but I'd expect a significant reduction in track capacity - and at peak times there is no slack.

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WTF?

Converting to alumin(i)um?

Didn't we just spend the last few decades converting to copper from alumin(i)um because it is unsafe? I also have been wondering why metal thieves haven;t just been called domestic terrorists yet.

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However, the real cost lies in the risk to those involved...

No, it doesn't. Their loss is society's gain.

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Welcome to Bulgaria

I feel like I am in Bulgaria circa 1991. Really. Not joking.

I nearly broke my leg in the middle of downtown Sofia a block away from plod central and a couple of blocks away from the parliament. Some b***rd removed the drain covers to sell them for scrap.

I remember the first time BTK (the local telecom) put some fiber for FTTC in the ground. They actually put stickers on it "fiber, not copper, pointless to steal". When it got stolen they found a note which said "we have to check".

Oh well, that is the joy of unified Europe. It goes both ways.

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Anonymous Coward

or to Romania

I was so happy when I read this article that it was not about Romanian citizens. Unfortunately, in our country this happens quite often (stealing railway cables, stealing drain covers or anything that may be made of copper). At least they learned by now that fiber is not made of copper.

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Anonymous Coward

Not just eastern europe...

Two weeks ago the very middle class enclave of Henley-On-Thames had most of it's drain covers nicked overnight on one side of town. As for clamping down on it I think you'll mind metal theft is closely related to the size of the local Pikey population.

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Happy

It must have been shocking.

Nearly as shocking as your use of the apostrophe.

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FAIL

Stealing LIVE power lines?

That's a Darwin award right there

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Sense? From ACPO???

ACPO are not my favourite organisation (hey - I like liberty...), but they're not so far off the mark with this one. I would have concerns about senior police officers having the power to directly close buisnesses, but they're on the right lines (pun intended).

What's needed really are two things.

First of all, scrap metal dealers should be licensed, and rather than doing this at a buisness level, it should be done at the individual level - much as the security industry is governed today. This prevents the buisness simply doing a pre-pack, and opening up as a new buisness, with a whole new identity, the following week.

The scrap dealers are one place to focus your efforts, because evidentially, everything eventually congregates with them. If you can prevent scrap dealers from taking the stuff, then you remove the demand.

Secondly, the Transport Police need to go on the offensive, and actually start patrolling the track. PIR detection systems around infrastructure would help, but you'd need to deal with the issue of false positives from wildlife etc.

Last week I was stopped on a platform in Doncaster by a BTP PCSO and asked if I was aware of the problem of cable theft. Erm, Hello? I'm a bloody rail user - OF COURSE I'm aware of the issue!!! They need to stop doing pointless exercises like this, and actually address the problem directly...

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