Cable thieves struck again in March causing major disruption for tens of thousands of commuters including those into mainline Waterloo station. Thieves put their lives at risk during botched cable theft sparks delays for tens of thousands of commuters! The thieves made a bungled attempt to steal the cables, leaving behind a saw in the process.  

They struck on lines in the Havant area causing numerous signalling failures between Guildford and Portsmouth with a huge knock-on effect on services between London and Hampshire. South Western Railway (SWR) warned of services delayed, altered and cancelled with trains reduced to slow speed and having to be “talked past” defective signals.

Problems began  with a series of signal failures. Network Rail (NR) engineers thought at first they were dealing with technical problems – until they came across cables partly cut with a saw still embedded in them in the Rowlands Castle area.

The saw is now being examined by police.

A NR spokesperson said: “‘We would like to apologise to passengers affected by disruption to services through Havant this morning; this is due to attempted cable theft at Rowlands Castle which has caused damage to our infrastructure.

“British Transport Police are investigating this incident and our engineers are working hard to fix the damage and resume services as quickly as possible.”

In January thieves failed to steal cables – but damage they caused resulted in huge disruption for mainline services to and from Paddington. The theft sparked major fears of a return of the organised theft of rail cabling after a spate of incidents in recent years. This resulted in a huge police crackdown on metal scrapyards through the UK – with cash deals for scrap made illegal.

NR said: “Cable theft costs us 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 who miss appointments or have their day ruined, is even higher.

“The theft of metal is a big problem for the railways as thieves target signalling cables, overhead power lines and even metal fences to sell for scrap.”

Trace-in-Metal Managing Director, John Minary said “This again highlights the inadequacies of the current legislation. Some dealers are buying this railway metal, and until this stops trackside copper will remain a target for thieves. We have been suggesting for some time now that more preventative action against unscrupulous dealers is needed. 

He continued, “Trace-in-Metal remains the only product that will survive the temperatures used in metals recycling. It is the only forensic marker that carries any fear factor in through the gates of the scrap yard. If they cannot sell it, they will not nick it.”

Source: London Evening Standard Chaotic scenes on South Western Rail in rush hour