Constantin Trahimov and Daniel Nicula, both 21, were sentenced at Staffordshire Crown Court on April 19 after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing. Teodor Racili, 24, failed to appear at court and will be sentenced at a later date.
The court heard how the three men were stopped by police at the Hilton Park services on the M6 in September last year, and officers discovered a quantity of railway cable during a search of the vehicle.
A British Transport Police (BTP) investigation found the cable had been stolen from the railway at Seighford, near Stafford, and Wrinehill, near Crewe. A search of a house in Norton Crescent, Birmingham, found invoices totalling £2,000 from scrap metal recyclers.
Detective Chief Inspector Malcolm McKinnon said: “Through forensic examination of CCTV and other sources we were not only able to place Trahimov and Nicula at the scrap metal dealership, we were also able to say they had been in the area of the thefts at around the time the incidents took place.
“This sentencing brings to a close an eight month investigation and demonstrates that British Transport Police is determined to tackle cable theft, will follow all possible leads and will not hesitate to put offenders before the courts.”
Elsewhere, two cable thieves from south Yorkshire have been jailed after costing the railway more than £31,000, following a separate BTP investigation. Terry Scott, 26, of Goole, was jailed for two years after pleading guilty to theft, attempted theft, perverting the course of justice, converting criminal property and producing cannabis and Michael Manton, 46, of Doncaster, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment at Sheffield Crown Court after pleading guilty to attempted theft and converting criminal property.
The court heard the pair attempted to cut railway cable on September 6 2012 and BTP officers discovered the cable had been disturbed and cut. Nine days later some 350 metres of recently-replaced cable was stolen and an investigation found Scott had weighed in the stolen metal at a local scrap metal recycling yard. A police helicopter also found a quantity of cable in a courtyard of an address believed to be used by Scott.
Recent figures released by Network Rail showed there were 285 incidents of metal and cable theft in the 12 months to April 2013, a 67 per cent decrease from 845 the previous year.