Railway metal thefts cost taxpayers £1.7m and disrupts passengers
Surprise scrap dealer site visits by Network Rail and the British Transport Police have taken place in recent weeks across the West Midlands and Warwickshire to ensure dealers are not trading stolen metal.
Latest figures reveal 26 incidents of serious metal theft on the railway between London Euston and Carlisle in the two years to October 2020. These incidents caused 18,359 minutes of delay to passengers and cost the taxpayer an estimated £1.7m (£1,725,619.33) in Network Rail’s North West and Central region.
Surprise scrap dealer site visits, in conjunction with the telecoms industry, have taken place in recent weeks to remind traders of their obligations under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013. By law dealers must ensure traded metal is legally sourced and that sellers’ details are recorded and kept as part of any sale.
Organised criminal gangs are increasingly targeting metal used in infrastructure and exploiting high metal prices. Thieves are being warned that police have sophisticated ways to catch them – with metal marked with a variety of trackable tags.
“Cable theft can cause huge problems for passengers at a very significant cost to our business – which is of course funded by the taxpayer,” commented Natalie Stretton, performance improvement specialist for railway crime at Network Rail.
“To stop the trade of illegal scrap metal, dealers must be vigilant if offered materials which could have been illegally obtained. Our ongoing visits to scrap metal yard allow us to ensure that dealers are trading safely and lawfully.
“Trespassing on the railway is incredibly dangerous, as well as illegal. Thieves are not just risking a criminal record when they come onto the railway to commit crimes, but risking their lives too.”
Superintendent Mark Cleland, British Transport Police national lead for metal crime, said: “We’re working with partners across the entire country and throughout the metals recycling industry to target those who we suspect of flouting the law or operating outside of their licence.
“By taking a multi-agency approach, we are maximising our ability to identify those who are attacking our national infrastructure, making it harder for them to sell stolen metal and gain from their activities.
“We’re warning would-be offenders that we will take action against them and anyone involved in the theft and trade of metal from the railway will be brought to justice.”