Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Come on people…think

Posted in Business, Customer service, Great Britain, Infrastructure, Politics by Chairman Pip on 27 February 2012

One of the big emotive issues that is making the rounds at the moment is the vandalism of church roofs and war memorials by metal thieves, due to metal prices being high. But of course, although this practice is despicable, fundamentally it is unimportant when compared to metal thieves stripping the metal from the national infrastructure. Stories are now becoming ever more commonplace of rail services being brought to a standstill as a result of signals and points failing because the metal wire connecting them to controls has been stripped and taken away. Then there’s thieves who take power lines (yes, they do that, even when there’s 25,000V running through the wire). There is widespread consensus that one of the major ways to combat this is to stop scrap dealers paying people for metal they bring in with cash, which can’t be traced, and instead use electronic payment. Which is why I am incredulous that on the big screens at Upton Park they still have adverts from London City Metals offering cash for scrap. Metal theft cost Network Rail in the region of £16m last year, while TfL had to fork over around £4m because of it; delays to the rail network because of metal theft now amount to tens of thousands of hours every year, and it is now being taken up as a serious issue by both the public and private sector. The government’s proposal to ban cash transactions for scrap is a step in the right direction, but they need to make sure it is rigorously enforced, not just with heavy fines but potentially custodial sentences for serious offenders. However, as an incentive for the scrap dealers, all of those companies and organisations that have an interest in stopping metal theft could pay into a fund that could then be used to help the scrap dealers with the cost of converting to cashless payment, which would probably be an awful lot cheaper than the current cost of making repairs. But finally, in the current climate there should no longer be any advertising for scrap dealers who offer to buy metal for cash. While I would hope and pray that the 34,900 sell out crowd at Upton Park on Saturday were all level headed and upstanding, I can’t help but think that some of them would see the advert, see the stories about metal theft, put two and two together and think “I can make a few bob there”.

“Government’s announcement on metal theft is a step in the right direction”
“Cashless trading is new weapon against metal theft”

Network Rail and the police do all they can to deter cable thieves, but there's plenty more that others can do as well

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