The latest data from Network Rail states there were 285 incidents of metal and cable theft in the 12 months to April 2013, a 67 per cent decrease from 845 in the preceding year.
New legislation targeting thieves and scrap metal dealers means the number of incidents has dropped over the last two years from its peak in 2010/11, which saw 995 incidents totalling over 6,000 hours of delays to trains.
Legislation introduced in December 2012 banned cash payments by scrap metal dealers in England and Wales and increased fines for offences under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act. Network Rail hailed a combination of enforcement, education, improved cabling and the tools to respond quicker as key to reducing the impact of metal and cable theft across the network.
The worst route was identified as London North Western, which saw 96 incidents of metal and cable theft, followed by London North Eastern with 81. However these regions saw marked reductions on figures for 2011/12, which stood at 150 and 400 incidents respectively.
In the period there were 29 cable theft incidents in Wales, 20 in Anglia and 19 in Scotland, while Kent saw 11. The remaining regions all had fewer than 10 occurrences, across Wessex (7), Western (7) and Sussex (2).
Rail minister Norman Baker said: “The coalition Government is strongly committed to tackling metal theft and it is heartening to see that the decisive action that has been taken is now paying off with major reductions in this kind of crime.”
Detective Chief Inspector Gill Murray, of British Transport Police, added: “The significant reductions during the past 12 months are encouraging and are testament to the work done by police and partner agencies to increase the risk of detection and prosecution to offenders, whilst also reducing the potential rewards for their criminal behaviour.
“We cannot, however, take our eye off the ball and will continue to develop initiatives and tactics to make life even more challenging for thieves and unscrupulous metal recyclers.”