Gang responsible for rail thefts, officials believe

RAIL officials believe that the same gang could have been responsible for all the metal thefts from Essex over the last nine days - they have all happened on a 20-mile section of track.

Paul Geater

RAIL officials believe that the same gang could have been responsible for all the metal thefts from Essex over the last nine days - they have all happened on a 20-mile section of track.

The thieves have targeted copper signalling cable which can fetch a good price on the black market. It is only used on some of the older sections of track - newer cable is made of aluminium.

Yesterday 100 metres of cable was taken from the Hatfield Peveral area. Over the previous nine days there had been similar thefts from Marks Tey, Colchester, and Chelmsford.

No trains were able to run between Colchester and London during the morning rush hour yesterday - and journeys that should take 65 minutes from Ipswich to London were taking three and a half hours.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “This kind of theft is incredibly dangerous - we've had people who have been electrocuted doing this because the 25,000 volts can jump from the overhead wire to people stealing the cable.”

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He said cable thefts caused disruption, which resulted in claims for compensation from passengers. They claimed from rail companies who could then claim the money back from Network Rail.

“Over the last year we have paid out �2 million in compensation because of delays caused by wire theft in this region alone - that would have built half the Beccles loop or a small rural station,” he said.

British transport police are investigating the theft and officers also believe it is likely the incidents are linked.

BTP Superintendent Jim Nattrass said: “Working closely with our partners at Network Rail we have in response set up teams of officers across the country under the banner of Operation Drum,”

He said: “From time to time hotspots do arise, however across the London North Area of BTP, which includes Essex, East Anglia and the northern home counties, we have seen a reduction of almost 40 per cent when compared with last year.”