RAIL bosses are facing a multi-million-pound security bill as criminal gangs continue to steal copper cables from North-East train depots.
British Transport Police are dealing with up to 100 thefts a month and yesterday Network Rail admitted it has so far spent more than £2m on security measures to deter copper thieves.
Millions more are believed to have been paid in compensation for delayed journeys.
Last year, almost 700 train journeys were delayed as a result of thieves stealing copper signal lines.
Network Rail insists there are no safety risks as signals automatically display a red light if the cables are disrupted, although this delays all trains in the immediate area.
The problem has grown in recent years because the booming Chinese economy has seen the price of copper cable rocket to £1,000 a tonne.
Since April last year, the police have investigated almost 1,000 thefts of copper cable from the region’s railways.
And officers predict the thefts will continue to be a big problem for years as copper demand continues to outstrip supply.
Last year, the police set up a team of 20 officers to tackle cable theft. They launched Operation Drum to combat the problem.
Detective Chief Insp Danny Smee said: “I don’t think it’s a problem that will go away. There is a huge demand worldwide for copper and other metals. It’s a huge problem and it’s our biggest challenge.”
Anyone with information should call British Transport Police free on 0800 405040.