Essex: Cable theft sparks new rail misery for commuters

COMMUTERS in north east Essex have again suffered major disruptions on the railways following the latest attempt by thieves to steal live power cables which run above the tracks.

Essex commuters have been hit particularly hard by this type of crime and the county has now experienced 112 incidents of cable theft since April last year.

Trains had to be cancelled during the peak travel time yesterday morning after a section of track on the Norwich to London line was closed at Hatfield Peverel for more than six hours.

Commuters from stations in Colchester, Chelmsford and across the region faced travel misery after thieves cut the live power cable which was left hanging across the track and hit signalling equipment causing it to short circuit.

British Transport Police (BTP) was alerted to the incident shortly before 8am and has now launched an investigation.

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A spokesman said: “BTP is appealing for information following an attempted theft of cable from the lines close to Hatfield Peverel rail station.

“No cable was taken, but the damage caused signalling failure which led to delays to train services and disruption for passengers.

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“The act of stealing, or attempting to steal, cable is extremely dangerous. What thieves don’t realise is that they are working on live cable, carrying up to 25,000 volts, which can cause extensive burns. By attempting to steal it they are seriously putting their lives at risk.”

Andrew Munden, Network Rail route director for Anglia, said: “These criminal acts have to stop. Every day passengers and essential freight deliveries upon which our economy relies are being delayed by 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 rightly expect 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 do everything in our power to deter thieves and bring those who attack our network to justice.”

The line was reopened at about 1.30pm and the service was back to normal by about 3pm.

Figures released by Network Rail on Tuesday revealed that in the Anglia region over the past three years there have been more 600 cancelled trains and more than 6,000 delayed trains due to cable thefts.

The cost to the company through compensation to customers for refunded tickets over that period is �4.5 million.

Anyone with information about these crimes is urged to call BTP on 0800 40 50 40 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Crimestoppers is offering a reward of up to �1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any cable thieves.

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