Metal thieves condemned for disrupting rail journeys for key workers during coronavirus pandemic

The journeys of key workers have been disrupted by metal thieves who have been ripping out hundreds of metres of railway signalling cable, say Network Rail.

Engineers are said to have worked throughout the night last Saturday to replace 300 metres of cabling between Alderley Edge and Crewe in Cheshire.

This stretch of railway has been targeted 28 times in the last 12 months.

And it is one of several locations in Network Rail’s North West and Central region to have been affected.

This has jeopardised journeys for key workers like doctors and nurses, as well as disrupting freight trains carrying thousands of tonnes of food and products to supermarkets across the country.

Discarded cable sheathing after metal thieves stripped out the copper wires from railway signalling in Cheshire Credit: Network Rail

“At a time of national crisis, it’s despicable that criminals are targeting the railway which is vital to keep people and goods moving.

Andrea Graham, Network Rail
Credit: Network Rail
  • There were more than 400 incidents of metal theft on the railway between London Euston and Carlisle in the 12 months to January 2020.

  • This caused significant delays to passengers and cost the taxpayer an estimated £1.4m in Network Rail’s North West & Central Region.

  • Organised criminal gangs are increasingly targeting metal used in infrastructure and exploiting high metal prices.

  • Thieves are being warned that police have sophisticated ways to catch them – with metal marked with a variety of trackable tags.