Network Rail and the British Transport Police say they are finally winning the war on cable theft. John Ryall reports.
Commuters in Kent and Sussex are suffering fewer delays caused by cable and metal thefts, new figures reveal.
At its peak the problem caused more than 6,000 hours of delays nationally in a single year, and cost Network Rail nearly £800,000.
But fewer incidents were recorded after thieves and rogue scrap dealers were targeted. Last year the thefts caused less than 1,000 hours of trouble for Kent and Sussex travellers. However, it still cost £540,000.
Dave Ward, Network Rail, said: "The reduction in delays and cost is good news for both the industry and passengers.
"The improvements we have seen are down to a number of factors, including British Transport Police targeting thieves and the scrap dealers buying stolen metal.
"We've worked with suppliers and other industries to make metal - particularly our cables - harder to steal and easier to identify and had teams around the network looking at new ways of working to reduce delay and fix thefts more quickly."
It is hoped that the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, passed by Parliament earlier this year and due to come into force in the autumn, will provide a further boost to the industry's efforts to tackle the thieves.
The new law targets rogue scrap metal dealers who trade in stolen metal, bringing in mandatory licensing of scrap metal dealers and outlawing cash payments.