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Copper Cable Crimestoppers

Ellis cabe cleatsReports earlier this year highlighted a reduction in the incidents of copper cable theft from UK railways, but despite this there were still 2,700-hours of delays and compensation payments of over £12.7million in the 12-months to April 2013.

We asked Richard Shaw, managing director of cable cleat manufacturer, Ellis to share his plan for resolving a problem that at its peak cost the UK economy £770million per annum.

“The biggest issue with this particular crime is the ease and speed with which thieves are able to disconnect, remove and ultimately steal long and highly valuable lengths of copper cable.

The main reason for this appears to be that copper cabling on the UK’s rail network is rarely secured and so the challenge to the thief is not how to get their hands on it, but how to remove if in sufficient quantities before their collars are felt.

The question of how to eradicate this highly opportunistic crime has caused consternation for the rail industry and the British Transport Police for a considerable period of time, with an ever increasing number of suggestions made and approaches taken.

One of the latest suggestions has been to replace copper cables with cheaper aluminium ones, which are of far less value to metal thieves. Meanwhile the stamping of the copper used in these cables is now common practice as a means of preventing it being sold on once stolen.

To date though, the most successful approach has been the strategy adopted by the British Transport Police. Aided by £5million of Home Office funding, they have tackled cable theft by aiming to stop the culprits benefitting from it.

The tactics deployed have included banning cash payments by scrap metal dealers in England and Wales and increasing fines for offences under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act. The result? Progress, albeit slow progress.

Now I have an admission to make. All of these different approaches have left me perplexed. Yes, I can see their merits, but they all seem to have one thing in common – they are all very much aimed at catching the thieves after they’ve stolen the cables.

I realise there may well be a wholly valid reason for this, but to me seeking to catch the thieves after the act only addresses half the problem. Yes, the chance of them getting caught is higher than ever before, but by the time this happens the cables will have been removed from the tracks, hundreds of passengers will have been significantly delayed and the rail network will have had to claim for the cost of replacement cables from their insurers.

Therefore, would it not make more sense to cut out copper cable theft by preventing it being stolen in the first place?

This was very much the question I posed our product research and development team when we first discussed the topic of copper cable theft in 2012. And when you consider our core products are used to secure electrical cables in the event of a short circuit scenario, I was certain we could develop something that could prevent thieves being able to remove copper cables from railways.

With this thought in mind we have gone on to develop a tamper proof cable cleat that makes removing copper cables nigh on impossible. Firstly, it ensures the cable is securely held in place, and secondly is designed specifically to make the job of detaching the cleat from the cable a thankless task – even more so when you consider it will be installed at regular intervals along any copper cable installation, meaning the time needed to successfully remove significant lengths becomes too great to avoid capture.

What our solution also does is enable the UK railway network to cost-effectively secure both new and existing installations in a fashion that we are confident will bring about the end of copper cable theft.”

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