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Virgin Trains backs fight against cable theft

Press Release   •   Nov 07, 2011 04:49 GMT

Virgin Trains has thrown its weight behind the fight to tackle cable theft, appealing to the public and politicians to get tough on criminals who steal copper cable from the lineside.

At Coventry railway station today, Monday 7 November 2011, passengers were invited to support the rail industry in tackling the thieves who are causing thousands of minutes of delay and disruption to passengers and costing the country millions of pounds a year.

Representatives of London Midland, Network Rail, British Transport Police and SmartWater joined Virgin Trains’ managers to distribute information to passengers. SmartWater investigators demonstrated the use of their forensic marking technology, which is being used within Coventry and the surrounding West Midlands to capture and to deter thieves.

The West Midlands is one of the hot spots for this nationwide problem. The public can help by reporting cable theft to the British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40. They can also support the rail industry’s campaign for changes to legislation by lobbying their MPs. The Transport Select Committee is currently conducting a ‘Cable theft on the railways’ inquiry.

Virgin Trains' Chief Operating Officer, Chris Gibb said: "Cable theft continues to be an escalating threat to Virgin Trains’ customers and the economy. In 2010/11 there were 6,000 hours of train delay related to more than 3,000 crimes, and British Transport Police made more than 900 arrests. The trend so far this year is worse, despite a 20 per cent drop in the price of copper. On a single day recently Virgin Trains experienced 60 hours of delay.

“The cost to the railways alone reaches around £19million a year to replace lost cable and to compensate passenger and freight operators for the delays caused, while the wider impact on lost business and productivity accounts for another £19million.

“But cable theft is not a victimless crime that is all about money. Delayed customers are people with lives to lead - jobs to get to, family to see and hospital appointments to make. The cable thieves are disrupting people's lives, as well as undermining the efforts of rail staff to run a punctual railway.

"Along with the rest of the rail industry, the telecomms industry and many others, we hope that the Government will urgently make changes to regulations and legislation to make it more difficult to dispose of stolen scrap copper, given the impact this is having on the economy."

Wallace Weatherill, London Midland’s Operations and Safety Director said: “Cable theft has a huge effect on our customers. In this year alone some 11,988 minutes of delay, 114 full cancellations and 163 part cancellations have come about because of thoughtless criminality.”

“We are working very closely with Network Rail and our neighbouring train operators to do whatever we can to raise awareness of the crime and its impact. All of our staff are on high alert to report suspicious behaviour, and we have supplemented this by posters at stations and on trains.”

Dyan Crowther, Director Operational Services at Network Rail, said: “Our industry is under attack from metal thieves. Every day hundreds of passengers and essential freight deliveries are being disrupted and delayed. We are doing all we can to protect the network; including funding extra British Transport Police officers, using CCTV, forensic marking techniques and other technology.

“Despite that crimes continue to increase. We believe that the only way to significantly reduce metal crime is to take away the illegal market, and that more robust legislation and police powers are needed to achieve that.”

- ends -

Media contacts

• Virgin Trains Press Office: telephone 0845 000 3333
• London Midland Press Office: telephone 0121 654 1278
• Network Rail Press Office: 0161 880 3142 (Midlands); 020 3356 8700 (National)
• British Transport Police: Brian Price, telephone 07787 002 747
• SmartWater: telephone 0870 242 8899
• Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) Press Office: telephone 020 7841 8020

Notes to Editors

Cable theft

• There is cross-industry support for a campaign to bring about effective legislative change, as soon as possible, to increase regulation of scrap dealers and make punishment of offenders a greater deterrent.

• The problem is growing significantly year by year, from 742 incidents in 2008-09, to 995 in the 2010-11. From 2009-10 to 2010-11, the number of delay minutes has risen by 14%, and the numbers of cancelled trains as a result of cable theft rose by 20%.

• Over 365,000 minutes of passenger delays are recorded annually as a result of cable theft – a thousand delay minutes every day. Yet this single figure masks the extent of disruption and misery caused in each occurrence. We are now seeing between two and three incidents of cable theft every day – each one disrupting potentially tens of thousands of rail users.

• The figures for Network Rail’s West Midlands region alone are:
• 2009/10: 43 incidents; 115 trains cancelled; 47,520 minutes delay; £1.2m compensation costs*
• 2010/11: 58 incidents; 167 trains cancelled; 58,233 minutes delay; £1.5 compensation costs
• 2011/12 (up to 15 October 2011): 15 incidents; 10 trains cancelled; 14,693 minutes delay; £332,000 compensation costs
* costs paid by Network Rail to affected train operators, who in turn pay compensation to customers

• The misery and frustration for disrupted passengers is very real, and is damaging the reputation of the railway which otherwise is enjoying high levels of performance and passenger satisfaction. Yet, beyond disruption, passengers are putting themselves in danger – in June this year, passengers in Woking suffered as 56 trains were cancelled and a further 43 disrupted. Frustrated passengers left the train, walking across the tracks, at huge risk to their own lives, and causing further delay and disruption to other services.

• The Transport Select Committee is currently conducting a ‘Cable theft on the railways’ inquiry.

Virgin Trains

• Visit our Media Room website - - for an Image Library of pictures of Virgin Trains and the company’s operations, or to subscribe to receive alerts to new press releases.

• Virgin Trains is the brand name of Virgin Rail Group (VRG), which is owned 51 percent by Virgin Group and 49 percent by Stagecoach. We have operated the West Coast passenger train franchise since 1997.

• The current franchise was due to run until 31 March 2012, but the Department for Transport announced on 27 October 2011 that it would be extended until 8 December 2012. We have been short-listed for the new franchise that will start on 9 December 2012 and run until 31 March 2026, with an option to be extended by up to 20 months.

• Virgin Trains has been recognised in numerous industry awards. In 2011 the company was named Best Rail Operator in the Group Leisure Awards (which we also won in 2009 and 2010). In 2011 Virgin Trains won the British Quality Foundation's Achievement Award for Customer Satisfaction. In 2010 we were named Best Rail Operator of the Year at the Travel Globe Awards (voted for by readers of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Evening Standard. In 2009 we were voted Best UK Domestic Train Service by Business Traveller magazine for the second year running.

• Virgin Trains first achieved Investors In People accreditation in 2007 and this was renewed in 2010; the IIP Gold award was achieved in 2011. In May 2011 Virgin Trains was awarded accreditation against the criteria of the European Foundation for Quality Management's (EFQM) Excellence Model. The company’s Learning and Development team won a National Training Awards 2011 West Midlands award for its Coaching Culture programme.

London Midland

• For further information or interview opportunities, please contact London Midland communications – tel: 0121 654 1278, email: - or visit

• London Midland operates train services through the heart of England from London in the south, to Birmingham in the Midlands and Liverpool in the North West. London Midland began operating on 11 November 2007.

• 50 million passenger journeys a year are made on London Midland services; the company manages 147 stations and operates over 1,300 services a day.

• London Midland is owned by Govia, the partnership between the Go-Ahead Group and Keolis. Govia is the most enduring partnership between transport operators delivering rail franchises in this country. Govia is the UK’s busiest rail operator, responsible for nearly 30 per cent of UK passenger rail journeys through its three rail companies, Southern (which includes Gatwick Express services), Southeastern and London Midland. Further information on Govia is available at

Network Rail

• Network Rail is the not for dividend owner and operator of Britain's railway infrastructure, which includes the tracks, signals, tunnels, bridges, viaducts, level crossings and stations - the largest of which the company also manages. Network Rail aims to provide a safe, reliable and efficient rail infrastructure for freight and passenger trains to use.

• Network Rail website:

• Cable thefts occur on Network Rail infrastructure. The company hosts national groups to coordinate resources and share best practise in the fight against cable theft. Network Rail also chairs the national cross- industry group which is working with police and government to seek increased legislation to govern the illegal market in stolen metal.

British Transport Police

• For the latest news, updates and insight, follow British Transport Police on Twitter: @btp_uk.

• British Transport Police is the specialist, national police service for Britain’s railways. BTP deals with major and minor crime, disorder and incidents, and covers the rail system in England, Wales and Scotland, including London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, the Glasgow Subway and the Midland Metro and Croydon Tramlink systems. Its 2,914 police officers, 322 Police Community Support Officers, 190 Special Constables and 1,316 support staff are recruited and trained like those of local forces and have the same powers. Find out more at


• Network Rail is deploying SmartWater forensic marking within Coventry and the surrounding West Midlands area both to capture and to deter thieves responsible for disrupting the rail network.

• In hotspot areas SmartWater forensic sprays are being used to target persistent cable thieves directly. Once activated, the non-hazardous devices will douse offenders in a chemically coded liquid, which will cover their skin, clothing and hair. The liquid, which can only been seen under ultra-violet (UV) light, can then be used to link thieves back to a particular crime scene, long after the offence has taken place.

• SmartWater spray devices will only be used in areas not accessible to the general public, so there is no risk to anyone using public access points, crossings or footpaths.

• To deter thieves further, every mile of trackside cable has been forensically marked with its own unique SmartWater code so it can be traced back to its point of origin if stolen.

• Traceability heightens the potential risk of capture and conviction for the thief, whilst regular searches for SmartWater at local scrap yards are making it more and more difficult for thieves to sell on stolen goods.

• If thieves attempt to burn SmartWater off cable traces will remain and they also risk inadvertently spreading more forensic evidence onto tools and vehicles used to cut and transport the stolen cable.

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