Train taskforce helping reduce Havering commuter woe

Cable thefts from local rail routes has begun to fall after a special taskforce was set up to target the crooks, new figures released this week show.

Operator Network Rail has invested millions of pounds protecting key locations and funding extra British Transport Police (BTP) officers, following a huge spike in the crime last year.

The company’s Anglia route - which covers lines out of Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street through Havering - was repeatedly targeted by organised gangs and opportunists.

Crimes rocketed from 74 in 2010-11 to 113 in 2011-12 – an increase of 52 per cent

Dave Ward, Network Rail’s managing director, said: “With the price of copper remaining high, thieves are continuing to target the railway for metal to sell as scrap. We have seen an increase in the number of cable incidents from last year but our massive effort with the BTP and the train companies is having an effect.

“The number of incidents is still too high and continues to have an impact on passengers and the rail industry. We firmly believe that without legal reform we will continue to see thousands of hours of delay and millions of pounds wasted on these crimes.”

The route now has a dedicated crime team who run patrols to target hotspots as well as using a range of technology from thermal imaging cameras, which scan large areas, to real-time motion-sensitive cameras hidden in the rail infrastructure.

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Mr Ward added: “We are grateful for the public support we continue to receive in reporting suspicious activity – both on the railway and at disreputable scrap dealers. “We will continue to do all we can to stop these thieves but it is clear the law needs substantial change in order to take away the easy market for illegal scrap.”

Nationally, the total direct cost to the industry, and ultimately the taxpayer and country, continue to rise from �16.4m to �18.3m; an increase of 12 per cent because the thefts have spread to busier and more complex parts of the network.

Det Insp Nick Brook, of the BTP’s dedicated cable and metal theft team, said: “We have teams of officers patrolling on foot, in vehicles and with police dogs, out each and every night gathering intelligence and conducting high visibility patrols to catch and deter these mindless criminals.