SOARING railway thefts are causing havoc for Wigan train passengers.
Railtrack says there has been a huge increase in attacks on trackside cabling across the region in the past three years, triggered by the sky-high price of scrap copper.
Since 2008 scrap attacks cost the railways more than £2.02m in compensation and repairs costs across Greater Manchester. There were almost 220 theft causing more than 1,890 hours’ worth of delays.
In 2008 Scholes drug addict Christopher Hughes was jailed for 13 months for stealing 100m of copper cabling from the Wallgate to Liverpool line, causing widespread disruption to local services. In 2009 the busy West Coast Main Line ground to a halt after thieves stole points motor wire between Golborne and Bamfurlong.
Network Rail route director Jo Kaye said: “Every day passengers and essential freight deliveries upon which our economy relies are being delayed by thieves looking to make a quick buck at our expense.
“I cannot over-emphasise just how serious these crimes are. Cable thieves deny passengers the service they rightly expect and, through the massive cost to the industry, deny everyone improvements to rail services.
“We are doing everything we can to protect the railway and will continue to work closely with British Transport Police and other rail partners to do everything in our power to deter thieves and bring those who attack our network to justice.”
Det Insp Andrea Rainey of British Transport Police, said: “We are determined to send a clear message that such attacks on our critical infrastructure are unacceptable and the police and rail industry are working together to tackle the problem.”
Crime-cracking measures include the setting up of a dedicated BTP task force, increased patrols, and intelligence-led policing. Network Rail has recently funded extra, dedicated officers in a helicopter along with enhanced CCTV, forensic marking, trembler alarms and other devices to protect the cable.
They have also recruited “fast response teams” to get trains on the move as quickly as possible.