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  • Cable theft

    What we’re doing to beat the thieves ... and how you can help

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

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

    Britain's rail network is designed to fail safe, which means that when a cable is cut trains are brought to a standstill. This protects passengers but can lead to lengthy, frustrating delays while the problem is found and fixed safely.

    A large proportion of our funding comes from the Government, so these thefts are, ultimately, costing taxpayers money.

    How you can help

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

    • 0800 40 50 40 
    • In an emergency call 999 

    What we’re doing to prevent cable theft

    We have done a huge amount of work to tackle cable theft including:

    • Funding extra, dedicated British Transport Police officers around the country
    • Using CCTV to alert us that people are on the network and to support the police
    • Installing new ways of securing cables
    • Using forensic marking agents
    • Introducing cables which are harder to steal and easier to identify
    • Setting up dedicated security teams

    Scrap Metal Dealers Act

    The majority of metal recycling businesses operate within the law, but we firmly believed that full legislation reform was needed to help restrict the market in stolen metal.

    We have supported the Scrap Metal Dealers Act throughout its legislative journey, culminating in its enforcement from October 2013.

    The key features of the Act are:

    • Scrap metal dealers must be licensed and local authorities have the power to refuse unsuitable applicants and revoke licences
    • Police have the power by court order to close unlicensed scrap yards
    • All sellers of metal must show verifiable ID which dealers must record and retain
    • Cash trades for scrap metal are illegal without exception and subject to unlimited fines
    • A public national register of scrap metal dealers is created

    This will help make sure that sales of scrap metal are accounted for and that all people trading scrap are doing so legitimately.