British Transport Police (BTP) is appealing for information after three incidents of attempted cable theft in the areas surrounding Chelmsford caused severe disruption on the rail network.
The incidents took place between Wednesday, 11 and Monday, 16 May 2011, and the disruptions caused significant delays to rail services, which frequently run through the area, causing misery for many passengers, who suffered considerable delays as a result.
On Saturday, 14 May, BTP received a report that cable had been cut near to Chantery Road, Chelmsford.
The incident is believed to have occurred some time between 1pm on Friday and 9am on Saturday morning, and saw approximately 200 metres of overhead line cut down, causing 4,000 minutes (more than 66 hours) of delays to services.
The following day, on Sunday 15 May, BTP was alerted just after 3pm when cable was cut near to Generals Lane, again causing signalling failures and major disruptions on the lines between London and Norwich.
Officers attended and found that cable had been cut, but none stolen, however the incident caused 1,125 minutes delay to services.
Inspector Nick Brook, the officer leading the investigation for BTP, said: “The act of stealing cable is an extremely dangerous crime which is costly to the rail industry and to the thousands of passengers who rely on the rail network.
“In these particular incidents the thieves left empty-handed but caused major disruption to thousands of passengers.
“In this area, the cables do not contain copper; they are solely aluminium and have a practically worthless sell-on value.
“I’m now appealing for anyone who witnessed anything suspicious in the area, or who has any information regarding these incidents, to contact us.”
In total 150 trains were affected, including 27 cancellations.
Andrew Munden, Network Rail Route Director for Anglia, said: “Yet again, passengers across the region have been delayed by mindless thieves looking to make a quick buck at our expense.
“I cannot over-emphasise just how serious these crimes are. Cable thieves deny passengers the service they expect and deserve and, through the massive cost to the industry, deny everyone improvements to rail services.
“We are doing everything we can to protect the railway and will continue to work closely with British Transport Police and other rail partners to deter thieves and bring those who attack our network to justice.”
Anyone with any information about cable theft should contact British Transport Police or Crimestoppers where they can report the crime anonymously and could receive up to £1,000 reward if their information leads to a conviction.
Contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference B9/LNA of 16/05/2011. Or call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 1.