A CRACKDOWN on cable thefts has led to train delays being slashed.
Wearside passengers are now reaping the benefits of years of work to tackle metal theft and vandalism on the railways.
Network Rail, which is responsible for the UK’s rail network, teamed up with partners in the rail and other infrastructure industries to beat crime.
This has led to the number of cable thefts affecting rail services in the North East falling by two thirds.
At its peak, rail metal theft caused more than 360 hours worth of delays to trains in the area in just one year.
Delays are now down by 44 per cent, to around 202 hours, and the number of cable thefts affecting rail services is down by 64 per cent.
This has also led to compensation payouts to disgruntled passengers being cut by £375,000.
Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “Thieves targeting the rail network in the North East have caused misery to passengers and delay to essential freight supplies for too long.
“These figures show the true success of working in partnership with British Transport Police (BTP), our customers, other industries and the public to target this blight on our railway.
“The improvements we have seen are down to a number of factors.
“They include BTP targeting thieves and the scrap dealers buying stolen metal, our engineers developing cables that are harder to steal and easier to identify, teams around the route introducing new ways of working to reduce delay and fix thefts more quickly.
“Our rail partners and the public have become our eyes and ears – reporting suspicious activity which helps us to react quickly and minimise delay.”
It is hoped that the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which is due to come into force in the autumn, will provide a further boost to the rail industry’s efforts to clamp down on cable thieves blighting the system.