Although crimes for the financial year of 2011/12 are down 15 per cent on the previous year, Network Rail has reported that metal theft has cost 12 per cent more in the past year.
This is because thefts have spread to busier and more complex parts of the railway.
Network Rail operational services director Dyan Crowther said: “Our massive effort against cable thieves is having effect. Crimes and delay to passengers are both down on last year. However, they are still at an unacceptably high level. We firmly believe that without legal reform we will continue to see thousands of hours of delay and millions of pounds waste because of these crimes.”
As a result, Network Rail wants full reform of the 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers Act to take place.
It wants to see an updated, fully funded licensing scheme to replace the current voluntary registration, for magistrates to have the power to impose restrictions upon, and ultimately enforce the closure of yards that fail to keep to the law, as well as police powers to enter, inspect and if necessary close scrap dealers.
Additionally, they want scrap metal dealers to require proof of identity and to keep adequate records about their customers and additional requirements on itinerant metal dealers’ vehicle licenses to enable those operating outside the law to be impounded.