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Scrap metal thieves target motorways

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Entire sections of motorways, dual carriageways and railways have been put into darkness because of scrap metal thieves stealing cables.

Motorists are being forced to take to the busy motorways and carriageways without any lighting or crucial road signs which are potentially putting their lives at risk.

A dual carriageway in Leeds has been the worst hit by the thieves with a complete blackout after £200,000 worth of street lightening cables were stolen.

After an investigation police believe the thieves posed as workmen and engineers to cover up what they set out to do.

In some cases the black outs have caused roads signs to cut out, Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, told the Telegraph: “You also have to take into account warning signs being stolen.

“If this happens on a bend it can be really dangerous, on a remote road in North Yorkshire, for example, you would expect chevron signs and if they are not there it is much more worrying.”

The thieves have also turned their attention to rail network cables made out of copper which is highly valuable on world markets.

Earlier this week it had been revealed that undercover police units were travelling on railways during the night to catch scrap metal thieves during their raid.

The train nicknamed ‘ghost trains’ travel with their lights dimmed and engines quieter to allow specialist officers, equipped with infrared cameras to catch the criminals in the act. 

As a result of the cable thefts 1,969 trains have had to be cancelled because 675 copper cables being stolen across the network in seven months.

Network rail have revealed it has cost the railways £43 million over the last 3 years and also has cost the general economy £16-20 million a year.

Transport minister Norman Baker has spoken about how the thefts are making a big impact on Britain’s transport network.

The Transport Committee have looked into what can be done to tackle the problem, options such as looking to change the 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers Act, burying cables in more secure areas and to label them so they could be easily identified if they appeared at a scrap yard.

If action is taken against the thieves it will hopefully restore safety on UK roads and railways to avoid any accidents that may happen as a result of no lighting.

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By Amanda Bainbridge