Travel Updates


Cable Theft

Why cable theft causes delays - and what the industry is doing to reduce them

Metal theft is a big problem for the railway as thieves target signalling cables, overhead power lines and even fences to sell for scrap.

As the rail network is designed to 'fail safe', when a cable is cut trains are brought to a standstill. This protects passengers and train crew but can lead to long, frustrating delays while the problem is found and fixed safely

Cable theft costs the industry millions of pounds each year. The total cost to the economy, taking into account the impact of freight delays to power stations and supermarkets, and on passengers who miss appointments or have their day ruined, is even higher.

What the industry is doing to reduce cable theft and resulting delays

A huge amount of work has been done to tackle cable theft including:

  • Funding British Transport Police officers to increase their presence across the network
  • Using CCTV to spot people on the network and to support the police if a case comes to court
  • Finding new ways of securing cables to make them harder to steal
  • Using forensic marking agents that make stolen cables easier to identify
  • Introducing cables which are harder to steal and easier to identify
  • Setting up dedicated security teams
  • Network Rail, together with other essential infrastructure providers, successfully lobbied the Government to introduce the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which will help make sure that sales of scrap metal are accounted for and that all people trading scrap are doing so legitimately

How you can help

You can help by reporting suspicious behaviour on the tracks to the British Transport Police:

  • 0800 40 50 40 
  • Text 61016
  • In an emergency call 999 
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Last updated:   16 January 2017