Newport cable thefts delay rail services

Crushed beer kegs
Image caption Metal thefts are estimated to cost companies in Wales up to £6m per year

Cable thieves delayed and disrupted rail services in south Wales after two separate attacks at the weekend, say transport police.

Signalling cable at Newport's Maindee depot was damaged on Saturday while on Sunday 110m of cable was taken at the east Usk junction.

Rush-hour commuters on Monday complained of delays of up to 45 minutes.

Network Rail has offered up to £1,000 for information about the thefts.

Mark Langman, route director for Network Rail, said: "Network Rail is offering up to £1,000 for information which leads to an arrest and conviction.

"We are doing all we can to stop these thefts but we need the support of the community to be our eyes and ears on the ground.

"I am appealing directly to anyone with information regarding the people who committed this mindless act to come forward.

'Criminal damage'

"The thoughtless and dangerous actions of these individuals has resulted in massive disruption for thousands of passengers travelling between England and Wales and taken the time of limited railway resources that are normally employed elsewhere improving the railway."

Network Rail said that 22 rail services between south Wales and London had been cancelled, 49 part-cancelled and 216 trains delayed as a result of the damage at the weekend.

British Transport Police (BTP) said the thefts were risking lives and that the incidents had cost the rail industry around £250,000.

Detective Inspector Mark Cleland said: "We are treating these incidents as criminal damage with intent to endanger safety on the railways, an offence which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

"Those stealing cable are not only risking a court appearance, they're risking their lives.

"Because offenders can only access the cable by going right up to the tracks, there is a real risk they could be struck by a passing train or electrocuted, as some of the cables carry large amounts of electrical current.

The cable taken at east Usk junction was later recovered by officers nearby.

BTP said around a quarter of all cable-related crimes on the railways in south Wales are carried out in the Newport area.

Anyone who has any information about these incidents is asked to call BTP on Freefone 0800 40 50 40, quoting incident number B5/WWA of 07/02/2011, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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