Theft of Signalling Cable

HSTEd

Veteran Member
Joined
14 Jul 2011
Messages
14,378
Could you make whatever the cables are run through harder to access? E.g. if it's running through a trench, concrete over the top of the trench?
Or is anything that presents serious obstacles to the thieves also likely to make normal maintenance and repairs impossible?

On new lines you could probably bury a utility tunnel like structure under the trackbed with the cables runnning in it and accessible only at locked access points.
But retrofitting that would be effectively impossible.
 
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

Hellzapoppin

Member
Joined
16 Jan 2016
Messages
179
I think part of the problem with the GWR electrification was that the signalling cables had been buried to reduce theft, and then mast foundations were piled through them.
Only twice and one of those instances was non service effecting.
 

800001

Established Member
Joined
24 Oct 2015
Messages
1,684
Hopefully the theft of railway signalling cables will disappear when the easier pickings of car charging cables reaches profitable proportions.
Cable theft is on the rise!! At least 4 times this year in same area south of Peterborough.
 

InTheEastMids

Member
Joined
31 Jan 2016
Messages
579
Maybe more security cameras could be used on the copper cables to stop people stealing them.

I believe NR already use covert surveillance at known hot-spots where people trespass (not just for cable theft), so I expect this is already done.
I believe they tend to be temporary, rather than permanent.

Cameras won't stop people and won't help once the damage is already done.
True, most CCTV footage is never seen, and its value as a deterrent comes from being used as evidence.
That being said, video analytics can detect things like incursions, and alerts could be used as a way of getting eyeballs on cable thieves in real time.

However the real issue is that improved detection of trespass will then likely just shift the problem to the response time of police, and the capacity of our legal system to take these cases to court. Informed commentators, such as the 'Secret Barrister" seem to be in consensus that the UK court system is in a real mess with years of delays between arrests and cases coming to court.
 

zwk500

Established Member
Joined
20 Jan 2020
Messages
4,046
Location
Maastricht, NL
That being said, video analytics can detect things like incursions, and alerts could be used as a way of getting eyeballs on cable thieves in real time.
I'm not sure knowing 'two blokes of medium build in a black and a grey hoodie wearing jeans' is really going to sort anything out.

This kind of theft will continue for as long as people think there's money in it. Three ways to stop it - 1. Wait until the price drops low enough people don't bother, obviously this is no help in the meantime. 2. Go extremely aggressive on prevention, detection and investigation to find enough cable thieves that the rest think better of it (an impossible job that will cost far more than the disruption does to do it properly). or 3. Make the railway hard enough that they refocus on easier targets, which leads to its own set of problems for whoever they decide to go after.
 

westv

Established Member
Joined
29 Mar 2013
Messages
3,651
This must have created major problems as I saw a "Do no travel" tweet from LNER.
 

HSTEd

Veteran Member
Joined
14 Jul 2011
Messages
14,378
Does the railway use copper or aluminium in power cables these days?

The latter are significantly less valuable to metal thieves.
 

800001

Established Member
Joined
24 Oct 2015
Messages
1,684
This must have created major problems as I saw a "Do no travel" tweet from LNER.
It did. One LNER service per hour allowed between Peterborough and Kings Cross, and one Thameslink as well.

Other services spinning at York, Doncaster and Peterborough, with a lot of services also cancelled.

Reports of over a 1000 people on some lner services.
 

MadMac

Member
Joined
13 Jun 2008
Messages
624
Location
Moorpark, CA
Does the railway use copper or aluminium in power cables these days?

The latter are significantly less valuable to metal thieves.
Been aluminium on “new build” for many years. I’m aware of one instance in a particularly vandal-prone location where there was a power failure overnight. The S&T figured out where to start looking, and arrived on site to find a fellow with a hacksaw about 1/4 of the way into the nice, fat 660 volt power cable. He was still smouldering.
 

Dunnideer

Member
Joined
9 Jan 2022
Messages
121
Location
.
Been aluminium on “new build” for many years. I’m aware of one instance in a particularly vandal-prone location where there was a power failure overnight. The S&T figured out where to start looking, and arrived on site to find a fellow with a hacksaw about 1/4 of the way into the nice, fat 660 volt power cable. He was still smouldering.
Seen similar on a 25kV traction return bus bar at a feeder station. Grim.
 

Horizon22

Established Member
Associate Staff
Jobs & Careers
Joined
8 Sep 2019
Messages
4,817
Location
London
Though to my knowledge it's not been unknown for them to cut fibre optic cables not realising that they are fibre optic.

This has indeed happened on several occasions causing hours of rail delays but with practically zero value.
 

Magicake

Member
Joined
25 Aug 2009
Messages
109
Could you make whatever the cables are run through harder to access? E.g. if it's running through a trench, concrete over the top of the trench?
Or is anything that presents serious obstacles to the thieves also likely to make normal maintenance and repairs impossible?
Worked recently in an area of Liverpool where trough routes of cables had been filled with concrete around the cables as theft had been so bad. An effective solution to stop sticky fingers but you can imagine how much more awkward any work to replace, repair or run new cables or troughing is.
 

Mikw

Member
Joined
20 Apr 2022
Messages
272
Location
Leicester
Double whammy. cost of metal through the roof and the country feeling the pinch.

Historically crime tends to spike when the cost of living goes up and it's going up sharply.
 

westv

Established Member
Joined
29 Mar 2013
Messages
3,651
I know that disruption threads are generally not allowed on the main forum area but I'm still surprised there was nothing mentioned there considering the "do not travel" advice given.
 

InTheEastMids

Member
Joined
31 Jan 2016
Messages
579
I'm not sure knowing 'two blokes of medium build in a black and a grey hoodie wearing jeans' is really going to sort anything out.
You've misunderstood how this use case works.

It's not about identifying a specific individual, it's about detecting the presence of a person where there shouldn't be a person.
This is technically quite easy, and can be done in real time, then creating an alert for a CCTV operator to take a look.

It's the "then what?" practical issues that are often more challenging for end user orgs looking to deploy this kind of technology.

Is there, in fact, a camera operator?
Are police close enough to do anything about it?
etc..

Probably easier for an org like Network Rail to just replace every data cable with fibre...
 

zwk500

Established Member
Joined
20 Jan 2020
Messages
4,046
Location
Maastricht, NL
You've misunderstood how this use case works.

It's not about identifying a specific individual, it's about detecting the presence of a person where there shouldn't be a person.
This is technically quite easy, and can be done in real time, then creating an alert for a CCTV operator to take a look.

It's the "then what?" practical issues that are often more challenging for end user orgs looking to deploy this kind of technology.

Is there, in fact, a camera operator?
Are police close enough to do anything about it?
etc..

Probably easier for an org like Network Rail to just replace every data cable with fibre...
Identifying the presence of a person is only of any use if you can respond to site before they have caused the damage. There arent enough people to cover the lineside that fast. Otherwise all you have is a description of who you should be looking for after they've already stopped the railway.
 

the sniper

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2007
Messages
3,173
During the very long and protracted electrification of the OSE main line between Athens and Thessaloniki, large lengths of copper contact wire were frequently 'liberated' at night time prior to energisation.

Much of South Africa's suburban networks were pretty much stripped bare during Covid lockdowns, including rails and building fixtures in places!
 
Last edited:

Sonik

Member
Joined
7 Jun 2022
Messages
127
Location
WCML South
Identifying the presence of a person is only of any use if you can respond to site before they have caused the damage. There arent enough people to cover the lineside that fast.
In reality though, this is just a question of priorities.

There are various ways that damage to infrastructure can be quickly identified to a specific and very precise location, and not all require additional equipment to be installed.
 

zwk500

Established Member
Joined
20 Jan 2020
Messages
4,046
Location
Maastricht, NL
In reality though, this is just a question of priorities.

There are various ways that damage to infrastructure can be quickly identified to a specific and very precise location, and not all require additional equipment to be installed.
Yes, but what you really want to do is intercept/prevent the thing that would cause damage before it does so. Knowing exactly where somebody has pinched the cables from is not a great comfort to all those caught up in the disruption.
 

BingMan

Member
Joined
8 Feb 2019
Messages
49
During the very long and protracted electrification of the OSE main line between Athens and Thessaloniki, large lengths of copper contact wire were frequently 'liberated' at night time prior to energisation.
We had a similar problem at the CEGB in the seventies when we were renewing cables in Merseyside. Keeping them energised overnight was the soluion

Worked recently in an area of Liverpool where trough routes of cables had been filled with concrete around the cables as theft had been so bad. An effective solution to stop sticky fingers but you can imagine how much more awkward any work to replace, repair or run new cables or troughing is.
The electricity distributors and the telephone operators bury their cables without too much detriment to maintenance
 
Last edited:

Mojo

Forum Staff
Staff Member
Administrator
Joined
7 Aug 2005
Messages
19,213
Location
0035
I imagine someone enterprising soul has made off with OHLE cable before but there's high risk (normal cable theft) and high (voltage) risk!

The pros of a third rail

Not quite, third rail still uses copper signalling cables.
And also uses copper for the traction power cables too. The BTP tweeted only yesterday about a track search following attempted theft of traction cables on the Underground on Sunday night.


Night time track search following report of cable theft in Barkingside area.

@TfL London Underground Network Incident Response manager enabled access to tracks on route so @BTPLondon officers could begin the search immediately.

Result is Attempt theft
Cable secured
 

HSTEd

Veteran Member
Joined
14 Jul 2011
Messages
14,378
Short of placing the entire railway on viaducts or in tunnels not much can really be done here.

Maybe fully enclosed concrete hoods with barred ventilation?
 

skyhigh

Established Member
Joined
14 Sep 2014
Messages
2,751
Short of placing the entire railway on viaducts or in tunnels not much can really be done here.

Maybe fully enclosed concrete hoods with barred ventilation?
That would cost so much and cause so much disruption you'd be better off just replacing the cable when it's stolen.

Not to mention you'd need plenty of emergency egress points which would make it pretty trivial for a thief to break in.
 

Grumpy Git

On Moderation
Joined
13 Oct 2019
Messages
1,919
Location
Earth (for now)
I use one particular type size of small copper cable on a day to day basis (0.75mm² equipment wire).

Just had a look through my records and the oldest detail I can find is from 2006 when it cost £ 7.45 per 100m roll, it is currently £29.36!
 

Sonik

Member
Joined
7 Jun 2022
Messages
127
Location
WCML South
Yes, but what you really want to do is intercept/prevent the thing that would cause damage before it does so.
Ideally, yes.

But often with this type of crime a relatively small number of prolific repeat offenders are responsible, so catching them in the act can prevent further incidents. And high intensity zero tolerance policing has worked well to deter and reduce other crimes such as street robbery in known hotspots.
 

Top