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back to article Cable thieves cost UK rail £15m a year

Copper thieves are costing Network Rail £15m a year and causing 6,000 hours of delays. In the last three years the thefts have cost £43m, and last year attacks went up 52 per cent to an average of six a day. In 2010/2011 there were almost 1,000 cable thefts at a cost of £16.5m. But British Transport Police, which now has a …

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Stop

tit-le

Surely the plod just need to come down on the scrappers who buy this stuff?

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Yep!

And fine them the full cost of refunding every passenger who was late.

(Although you'd have to be VERY late indeed to get a refund from our oh-so-wonderful railway companies).

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FAIL

Very late

Even if you are very, VERY late, they still won't refund you if the problems were outside their direct control (which of course, all problems are!).

Delayed by four hours between Swansea and Manchester (stuck in Newport - ew!) due to cable theft - Arriva basically said "Not our problem mate, thanks for the cash"...

Arseholes!

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Big Brother

scrapyards

its about time the recyclers started asking where this metal comes from , or a few were prosecuted for "recieving stolen goods" .

they seem to be above the law at the moment which makes scrap metal theft an ideal crime. currently sweeping the country , not just the rail yards

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Overseas...

I suspect these days a lot of stolen stuff goes straight into a shipping container and off to another country, so monitoring the scrappies is of limited value (but probably still worth doing). However like a lot of anti theft stuff the end result will probably be to make life endlessly hasslesome for the folks who are legal, whilst the crooks will just find a way to work around it...

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Anonymous Coward

Metal Thieves

Its not just Network Rail thats having this problem.

These thieving bastards are going through everyones gardens.

Even in broad daylight but the police aren't doing anything to stop it.

The police should just stop every pickup and horse drawn trailer and demand where they obtained each and every item. Confiscate the scrap if they have to and their vehicles and horses.

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Pirate

and

for god's sake take their bones away from them

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Bronze badge

Gardens?

Why do you have large quantities of copper wire in your back garden?

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amazing but true

they even knick those cheapo solar garden lights - presumably for the scrap metal as you can get them new in pound shops so they are essentially worthless.

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Pint

Hmmm....

OK I accept this is a very serious problem and could lead to some tragedy sooner or later but I kind of get the feeling that after years of creaming the profit off us poor suckers who have to use the network rail services day-in, day-out, and putting none of the profit back in, this seems like a convenient excuse to blame poor service and late trains on stolen equipment.

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This will upset a few people..

I actually feel sorry for the Rail Operators; they cannot win what ever they do. The biggest single issue here is the safety of the public. If the signals are borked because a couple of gits have knicked some cable, that puts a lot of lives at risk.

When the operators delay trains, they get it in the neck because people are late. If the operators just carried on as normal, and there was an accident, they would get crucified. They are in a no win situation.

As for catching the barstewards at it, most of the network is actually well out of public gaze, and there is limited chance of seeing anything occur. Even if they did get it on camera, the chance of getting a lod there in time is limited; and even when they do, the courts can only fine so much (and most of the time, the fine goes unpaid)

True, they could replace copper with fibre, but that doesn't stop some of the thicker prats still knicking it in the hope that it is copper.

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Anonymous Coward

(untitled)

they are definitely guilty as charged there, however this surely is just making things worse?

maybe Network Rail BOFH should just start making random bits of copper cabling "live" and see who turns up.

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Happy

For once, it isn't an excuse

My wife works for Network Rail and although I can't remember the figures off the top of my head, she tells me that the percentage of delays caused JUST by cable theft is huge. The problem is that it's very difficult to police (railway lines are by their nature relatively remote and easy to sneak onto unnoticed).

From what I understand, the next time you are on a delayed train and they say something like "sorry about the delay - this is because of a signal failure owned by Network Rail" (The operators LOVE to blame NR when they can), the problem is almost always because of cable theft.

By the way, the next biggest cause of delays is suicides and other deaths caused by incredibly stupid people doing incredibly stupid things like wandering over the lines while pissed, or dodging level crossings.

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FAIL

when will they tackle the scap yards?

Why do they keep throwing money at catching the actual thieves and not go after the scrap dealers that accept all this kit, stop them paying out in cash would be a bloody start??

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When will they tackle the scrap yards..?

They did - underneath the M1, not so succesfull though...

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Grenade

ahh

the burnt motorway strategy

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IT Angle

Could be worse...

At last our infrastructure is more resilliant than Georgia and Armenia where a single theft can switch off the internet...

(I'm surprised the journo missed a cheeky a reference to this story for a possible IT angle...)

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/06/net_killing_granny/

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Scum

'angin's too good for the buggers. Many a cold, wet day I've spent in some god-forsaken hell hole (Derby) because some scumbag decided that they couldn't do without Xmas gifts for their spawn (or enough Stella to get so blotto that they don't care about the tears).

I can only image the overall loss to our economy because of delayed and cancelled trains that these selfish gits cause.

I propose very high current electric fences to keep people away from the target areas or some kind of automated laser turret system.

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WTF?

Anyone seen Vince?

He was stood right next to me a second ago...

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Joke

Come on Mr Clegg...

We know it's you posting anonymously

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MJI
Silver badge

Easy - encourage the thieves

"You do know that the canle up there is valuable, don't worry about the tingling as you get close...."

ZAP

Pile of soot and a pair of shoes left.

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MJI
Silver badge

Spelling mistake

CABLE!!!!

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Anonymous Coward

Not Just The Railways

Early this year, my parents, in the rural South East where cut off due to some thieves half-inching over a mile of copper that linked the village to the next (and thus the exchange)

Consequently, thousands where without phone or internet for over a week. In addition, the village is in a valley, and mobile phone reception is sparse at best.

A week after they got the copper replaced? The gits nicked it again....

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Pirate

Tit for old tat

take the distributor leads from their vehicle. Hell, take the whole wiring harness.

See how far they get.

Let the punishment fit the crime :)

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Joke

I vote

for ultra high voltage, microwave frequency signalling. Few KV, lots of amps and way up in the Ghz range for that extra bit of punch.

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Unhappy

Doesn't matter

I believe they chop their way quite merrily through high voltage cables as well. Massive insulation on the wire cutters and you're fine - and cut through them one at a time for good measure.

The also steal optical fiber as well, mistaking it for copper and dumping it as it's too difficult to offload. Basically if you wrap a piece of string in PVC, chances are they'd nick that too.

Scum of the earth. Have had a network outage and several massive delays on trains due to them.

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They even take fiber otics

I used to be an Ops Manger for Network Rail and had to deal with the fallout from cable thefts.

The thieves had a very sophisticated theft method. They would use two modified heavy shovels, the bottom of which was grinded to be razor sharp. They would stand 1/2 mile apart. At one end they would tie a rope to the cable at one end and a quad bike at the other. Using phones/radios/etc they would slice the cable with the shovels in unison and the quad bike would then drag it out of the cable trough.

It wasn't just signalling cables they took, they would even take hi-voltage cable used in third rail areas. They protected themselves by standing on rubber mats.

Signaling cable is an expensive, custom made, multi-core nightmare. They yield a lot of copper, but are a right pain to fix. There could be as many as 100 wires in each one.

Fixing the cable is difficult and expensive in itself. But with no signalling system trains have to revert to pilotman operation which is painfully slow, but the only way to ensure safety when the signalling system is out. Under the rules of our modern railway Network Rail has to compensate the TOCs for these delays. Some cable thefts have costs Network Rail in the region of six-figure sums payable in compensation to the TOCs.

The thieves extract the copper by burning the cable on a wood fire. What they are left with is copper wire that does not give away its source. Apart from the obvious smell of burning which a lot of scrap metal dealers seem not to notice.

Sadly, for all their sophisitcation some cable theives are idiots. They frequently steal fiber optic cable and even go to the bother of trying to burn it down for the non-existent copper only to be left with a pile of brittle burnt fiber optics. I've seen a few of these fires and derived great satisfaction from it.

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Silver badge

it was the pikeys wot dunit

i can haz £1000 nao???

nao????

nao?????

kthxbai

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Thumb Down

Cable theft is nothing new

I remember when I was young, a few blokes from the town I come from tried stealing some power lines from a pylon, one threw a chain up with the intention of tying it to the back of a car. Not surprising he was electrocuted and died (and causing a power cut).

Not a Darwin award as he had children. I went to school with his son, who was pretty traumatised his friends carried his dead body home and "rigged" his body to the tv in front of his family to pass it off as a accident!

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Alert

Thieves on the line

Cable theft is obviously a pain for telecoms companies as well. I heard a story about a company who decided to replace a copper cable run with fibre optics. As well as speeding up network access and reducing the possibility of theft, once they recovered the copper and sold it on they actually made a profit on the task.

As far as thieves on railway lines go, I think a suitable punishment would be to stand in for the non-functional signals as human semaphores. A few weeks of standing out in all weathers indicating whether or not it's safe for trains to pass should encourage them not to do it again. They managed to avoid cable theft on the then new Channel Tunnel rail link by electrifying the overhead lines for "testing", but signal cables are lower voltage and less likely to zap any miscreants

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Joke

Electrified cable jackets

If signal cable is a "multi-dozen core custom-made mess" as previously stated by Smitty, why not tweak the design a little?

Add a few high-voltage, high-current pairs. Call it "a preliminary upgrade in preparation for the potential installation of new signalling equipment which requires a high-voltage power supply."

At the least, you'll damage or outright ruin their tools. At most, you cook the scally in-place and weld them to the cable.. along with their bolt cutters. I'm sure the local rat (and possibly fox) population will appreciate the free, pre-cooked meal. We're saving the environment in two ways -- replacing smaller sections of cable (if it's even necessary), and feeding the wildlife. Win-win!

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Hi-voltage does not stop them

The theives know how to deal with hi-voltage cables - they steal those too. They stand on a thick rubber pad. There have been many thefts of 650v third rail feeder cable in the Southern region and not one of the scallies has been killed, yet!

Copoer signalling cable is slowly being replaced with fiber optic cable which is worthless to the thieves. But it will be some time before that process is compelted.

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Boffin

Vaguely had an idea

of mixing very subtle blends of isotopes to create a "serial number" for any given run of cable. Any trade in the cable needs to be backed by proof of ownership with severe penalties for anyone caught dealing without such proof (i.e. dodgy scrappies).

I had to work on a system for a scrap metal firm (big one, branded lorries and all). It's sole purpose was to stop the gaffer ripping the owners off. It worked too well ... our service engineer almost got beaten up by a bunch of not-doing-so-well workers.

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Chemical markers

Some companies are already marketing technologies which allow assets to be "marked" for later identification. The chemicals use a specific tag for each client, which can be identified even at very low levels. Apparently, Network Rail has already signed a deal with SmartWater to protect the very cables discussed in this article:

http://www.smartwater.com/Media-Centre/Latest-News-2/January-2011/Network-Rail-Signs-Up-With-SmartWater.aspx

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Happy

Re: Chemical markers

Simpler method, impregnate the bloody things with Anthrax spores.

The full crimefighting gamut of deterrence via detection through to punishment in one package.....

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lenient judges

Part of the problem is that they get a slap on the wrist.

Hitting 'em with the full costs probably won't help much, but longer jail terms may well do so.

Interfering with safety of life systems is a serious issue.

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Flame

Just the cables? Try pinching the actual railway line!

I'm a little saddened by the lack of ambition of today's pi^h^hne'erdowells. A few years back, a former employee of Jarvis hired a crew of workers and had them set about actually cutting up the mothballed Leamside line. After six days and having lifted 2.5 miles of track they were eventually caught when they were spotted by a real employee of Jarvis who realised what they were up to! http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/3044669.stm

Rather than spend a couple of million (or even less according to some reports) putting the track back, our wonderful not-for-profit Network Rail have left the whole line to rot (there are actual trees growing on some bridges). When they eventually get bored of billion quid white elephant high speed lines and buying twelve inch to the foot kits from Japan it'll cost a fortune to reinstate the line and do something useful with it like providing public transport.

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Flame

I am shocked

People nick anything to support drug habits* that most of us can't afford. Maybe the £16.5m could be spent on apprenticeships in the transport industry? Even at £5.93 minimum wage + overhead at 30% that's enough to support work for over 1000 young people. Plus the fact that they'd put it back into the economy as well.

*or whatever it is they spend it on

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