A surge in cable thefts causing hours of delays for commuters has prompted a blitz by rail cops.
Officers from British Transport Police were out in force around Castleford yesterday after figures revealed there were more than eight times the number of cable theft incidents in and around the former pit town last year compared to 2009.
Officers were out on patrol with dogs near railway lines, local scrap metal dealers were visited and a presentation was given at Airedale High, all aimed at raising the profile of the huge damage and disruption caused by cable thieves stripping valuable copper cable near the region's tracks.
DS Sellers, of British Transport Police, told the YEP: "Each year the actions of thieves cost Network Rail hundreds of thousands of pounds in repairs and result in countless delays and cancellations and huge associated compensation costs. Cable theft also has a negative effect on the economy of the geographical area concerned and the wider UK economy.
"This has been a particular problem in the north east of England and Yorkshire which, since the start of 2010, has seen a marked increase in the number of thefts committed on the railway."
In a bid to tackle the problem, BTP have set up a dedicated Operation Drum taskforce - but say Castleford still has one of the highest number of offences nationally.
From January to December 2009, five offences were recorded in the area. But that figure sky-rocketed to 41 between January and December last year.
And this year has already seen the same number recorded in January alone as in the whole of 2009.
The massive spike is being attributed to the price of copper being at its highest since 2007, selling at more than 6,000 per tonne.
DS Sellers added: "Cable theft is far from a victimless crime and, aside from the cost to the industry, causes misery and major issues for countless people whose journeys – some of which could be vitally important like hospital appointments and flights – are hampered by the resulting delays and cancellations.
"Thieves often store cable in backyards or garages, and may burn it to remove the sheathing, and there is no doubt that those involved in the theft of cable and metal will have either directly told friends,
neighbours and family about what they are doing or, at least, aroused
Warrick Dent, general manger for Network Rail, added: "Metal thieves
targeting the railway are causing misery to thousands of passengers and freight users in Castleford every year. They are costing the industry, and the wider economy, millions of pounds and that figure is rising."
Anyone with information should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.