Rising copper prices hit commuters as thieves steal cables

LONDON commuters yesterday suffered severe delays on the train network following the theft of copper-based signal cables in Guildford, Surrey.

The incident, believed to have taken place on Sunday night, disrupted the journeys of hundreds of thousands of rail customers travelling on South West Trains between Hampshire and London Waterloo.

There have been three further incidents of signal cable theft in the south east of England in the last week alone, delaying trains at London Bridge and Paddington stations.

The British Transport Police has introduced a number of defensive measures to fend off this crime, but have been unable to prevent rising cable theft amid soaring demand for copper worldwide.

hugely inflated copper prices have led to UK cable thefts increasing by a third since 2008. The surge has been fuelled by the economic boom in China, where the need for copper increased by 38 per cent in 2010.

UK transport minister Norman Baker has estimated that cable thefts, as well as the frustration and inconvenience they cause to staff and customers, have cost the UK a total of £1bn.

He said: “Thefts like this cause misery for thousands of commuters and cause damage to the economy out of all proportion to the value of the cable itself.”

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said that cuts to security staffing have “turn[ed] the rail network into a criminal’s paradise”.