THERE have been seven arrests made in Wales and the Borders since the start of 2023 for theft of metal cables from railway tracks.

Network Rail and the British Transport Police have stepped up efforts in tackling what they call ‘dangerous, disruptive and costly crime’.

The theft of metal, especially cables, from the railway has cost taxpayers £1.1m on the Wales and Borders route since January 2023 as the majority of the funding for Network Rail comes from the government.

The seven arrests are more than double the number of arrests made in previous years, with three in 2020 and three in 2021.

Network Rail has increased its efforts to crack down on cable theft on railways by funding British Transport Police officers, using overt and covert security cameras to alert when people are on the network and support the police, incorporating drones to help with increasing patrols, installing new ways to secure cables, using forensic marking agents to be able to track thieves, introducing cables that are harder to steal and easier to identify and setting up a dedicated security team.

Network Rail has also found that thieves target the overhead power lines and even metal fences which they later sell for scrap.

The rail network across the UK is designed to fail safe, meaning when a cable is cut, trains are brought to a standstill which protects passengers but leads to lengthy and frustrating delays as the problem is being located and fixed.

Andy Armstrong, programme manager for route crime and security for Network Rail Wales and Borders, said: “This increase in arrests and convictions is a welcome half-way marker to 2023. Cable theft costs Network Rail millions of pounds each year. The total cost to the economy – taking into account the impact of freight delays to power stations and supermarkets, and on passengers whose journeys are disrupted – is even higher.

“We are working with the BTP and wider industry to crack down on cable theft, as well as other metal theft. Our adoption of new technologies has already seen an increase in arrests and convictions, and we will continue to improve security and ensure that the railway can run safely, securely and reliably.”

More specific details on the arrests are unavailable at present due to pending trials and ongoing investigations, but the majority took place across the south Wales area.