The UK government is being urged to introduce tougher measures to deal with the increase in cable theft on the country’s railways. Last week, three separate incidents of theft resulted in travel disruption in Sussex and on services travelling to and from London Bridge and London Paddington. Passengers travelling into Waterloo with South West Trains have also experienced delays today because cable was removed from tracks near Guildford in Surrey.

Although a number of measures have been employed in an attempt to thwart criminals such as introducing more CCTV, burying the cables and making scrap dealers more aware of the severity of the problem, incidents of theft have risen by a third since 2008/9.

The government said it was in consultation with Network Rail and the British Transport Police to find a solution. In June this year thieves targeting cable near Woking in Surrey managed to knock out the signalling system causing severe delays to around 80,000 passengers travelling during rush hour on South West Trains.

Sir Brian Souter, chief executive of Stagecoach, said this type of criminal behaviour was not only making the lives of train travellers miserable but was also causing significant damage to the economy. According to minister for transport, Norman Baker, cable theft has cost the UK around £1 billion.

He added that this figure did not include the additional cost of 16,000 hours of delays which have prevented passengers from getting to work on time. Sir Brian said that it was now time for the government to take serious action.