METAL thieves are being warned they face a tough time as police step up their bid to drive them off the tracks.
British Transport Police leaders have vowed they will be out in force on the region’s railways and have pledged to come down hard on those caught trying to steal metal from the network.
Prevention patrols will be carried out and officers have already been out in force delivering cable theft awareness leaflets to hot-spot areas.
Deputy Chief Constable Paul Crowther, who heads the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Metal Theft Working Group, said: “All affected industries are now working together to deal with the associated problems and we continue to push for strengthened legislation to help deal with rogue scrap metal recyclers.
“As we approach 2012, I can assure everyone that efforts to reduce metal theft and its impact will continue.
“Thieves and unscrupulous dealers will find the UK is not prepared to suffer any further, and we will not hesitate to take action against anyone who is found to be involved in this form of criminality.”
Sunderland to London trains were delayed by more than two-and-a-half days between May 2010 and April 2011 after thieves caused Grand Central trains to grind to a halt.
In the last three years, thieves across the region have caused delays of more than 1,000 hours to Network Rail users, with attacks on North East lines rising by 48 per cent in April.