A HARD-HITTING campaign has been launched to stop thieves from risking their lives on Sunderland’s Metro lines.
The city’s rail network is a hot spot for cable thefts, with train services often disrupted due to criminals.
Now, Nexus has joined forces with Northumbria Police for the powerful poster campaign warning people of the dangers and consequences of trespassing on the system.
The campaign uses graphic images of a man with electric burns to hammer home the safety message and show the net is closing in on cable thieves.
On Monday services between Park Lane and South Hylton were temporarily halted during the rush hour due to thefts.
And, as revealed in the Echo, Sunderland to London commuters were delayed by more than two-and-a-half days between May 2010 and April 2011 after cable thieves caused Grand Central trains to grind to a halt for 4,048 minutes.
Figures released by Network Rail also reveal that, in the last three years, thieves across the region have caused delays of more than 1,000 hours, with attacks on North East lines rising by 48 per cent in April, compared with April 2010.
Campaign posters are being displayed at Metro stations, police stations and council offices.
Since March, Nexus has spent more than £300,000 mending damage caused by cable thieves.
Since April, 20 incidents of metal theft on Nexus and Network Rail tracks have taken place, compared to 13 in the whole of 2010/11.
Bernard Garner, director general of Nexus, said: “These posters send out some very powerful messages to the thieves.
“We are speaking directly to people who may be thinking about putting their lives at risk to try and steal metal worth only a small amount to them.
“Not only is the net drawing in thanks to extra policing, but anyone who chooses to tamper with live cables risks death or horrific injuries.”
Superintendent Peter Farrell, of Northumbria Police, said: “A rise in the value of metal has seen an increase in metal thefts and, like other forces, Northumbria Police has seen an increase in the number of incidents, including on the Metro system and railways.”
He said operations to disrupt criminal activity have included roadside checks on vehicles used to transport metal and regular visits to scrap metal dealers to help identify stolen metal and those responsible for selling it.
Nexus has also teamed up with other railway organisations, utility companies and police to press for a shake-up to the laws that cover scrap metal trade.