Railway passengers and freight now suffer delays on a daily basis as metal thieves get organised and cable theft rises 85% in one year

Lat­est analy­sis of British Trans­port Police data by our VPS Secu­ri­ty Ser­vices divi­sion, shows that cable theft has increased sharply in the last year with live cable thefts ris­ing 85% in the lat­est 2017 – 2018 BTP annu­al sum­ma­ry.[1]

Com­bined with non-live cable thefts, which rose by 54% over the same peri­od, the total num­ber of met­al thefts in a year has risen from 257 to 453. That means rail­way cable is now stolen at more than a dai­ly rate on UK’s net­work, up from five times a week the pre­vi­ous year. 

Arson on rail­way prop­er­ty also saw a surge in the last 12 months, almost dou­bling from 74 to 143 inci­dents in 2017 – 2018. Tres­pass, which the police cat­e­gorise as a line of route’ crime, now accounts for 43% of all dis­rup­tion to ser­vices. VPS Security’s analy­sis of the data indi­cates that dis­rup­tion from tres­pass accounts for some 10,000 hours in delays due to police inves­ti­gat­ing such incidents.

Met­al theft, arson and van­dal­ism are crimes that have a seri­ous impact on freight and on pas­sen­gers get­ting to and from work or to see fam­i­ly. Steal­ing even just a few pounds worth of cable can leave thou­sands of rail­way pas­sen­gers and many tonnes of freight strand­ed for hours.” says Phil Bunting, a Direc­tor of VPS Secu­ri­ty Ser­vices. The Scrap Met­al Deal­ers Act in 2013 and the police have sig­nif­i­cant­ly helped reduce the theft of cop­per and cable over that five-year peri­od. The num­bers of thefts had been drop­ping, until now that is, and the sus­pi­cion is, that they are increas­ing­ly the result of more organ­ised crime. This par­tic­u­lar rise comes at a time when cop­per prices have fall­en, which is a wor­ry­ing trend. It may mean this prob­lem could even get worse if we don’t keep an active eye on the issue.” 

Rail tracks and cable run through both urban envi­ron­ments and remote areas, so they are vul­ner­a­ble to tam­per­ing, dam­age or removal by tres­passers, van­dals, thieves and saboteurs.

VPS Secu­ri­ty Ser­vices research­es cur­rent issues and designs solu­tions to pro­tect remote or chal­leng­ing sites such as rail­ways, high­ways, con­struc­tion and util­i­ty sites across the UK, with an advanced mix of CCTV, wire­less and remote mon­i­tor­ing technologies.

[1] Live cable thefts rose 85% from 85 record­ed inci­dents in 2016 – 2017 to 158 in the lat­est BTP annu­al sum­ma­ry.


  • Live and Non-Live cable, 452 record­ed crimes 2017 – 2018 and 257 in 2016 – 2017 – source: page 13 BTP Sta­tis­tics Bul­letin 201718
  • Dis­rup­tion of 23,670 min­utes = 394.5 hours source: Page 15 Last year’s BTPA Annu­al Report 2017
  • Tres­pass = 43% of all dis­rup­tion to ser­vices, and 10,000 hours in delays due to police inves­ti­gat­ing such inci­dents. Page 21 BTPA cur­rent Annu­al Report 2018

VPS www​.vps​group​.com Phone: 0330 005 5300 Com­mu­ni­ca­tions office: 07722282946 

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