Thieves cause £581,000 worth of travel chaos...for the sake of £43 scrap

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Thieves who caused travel chaos across Britain by stealing rail cabling with a scrap value of just £43 have been jailed for more than five years between them.

Richard Yates, aged 26, and 42-year-old Dean March, both of Turner Lane, Boughton caused a staggering £581,197 of disruption to mainline services which led to delays and cancellations to no fewer than 129 trains on Sunday and Monday, April 12 and 13, this year.

The pair admitted theft and appeared at Nottingham Crown Court yesterday for sentencing.

Joey Qwong, prosecuting, said 80 metres of copper cabling belonging to Network Rail had been stolen from the line just north of Retford railway station.

The cabling had been responsible for altering signal lights from red to green to allow train drivers to proceed in safety.

When police were called to the scene of the crime, they found an axe, knives and an electric circuit tester had been left behind by the thieves.

Crucially, they found finger prints which led them to March and Yates.

Both fully admitted the charge when arrested by police, although Yates said he had only stopped the car that night to have a cigarette, and it was March who jumped over a nearby wall to get to the cable.

However, Yates said he then helped load it into his car and sell the wiring the next day to a scrap merchants in Retford – they were given just £43.45.

The court was told neither had any idea of the damage it would cause, with Martin Elwick, representing March, describing his client’s actions as “gross stupidity”.

Raglan Ashton, mitigating for Yates, said his client was ‘appalled’ by the massive problems he had caused.

Mr Qwong, prosecuting on behalf of the British Transport Police, referred to previous similar thefts that had come before the courts, but none had caused such financial implications as this case.

The judge, Recorder Peter Cooke, told Yates and March: “Together you decided to help yourselves to a ‘princely’ sum of £43, hardly a worthwhile haul for your endeavours, yet the consequences were astonishingly broad.

“I have no doubt that the hidden costs of what you did were much higher than what we are concerned with here. The costs were enormous.

“Countless people trying to get to their place of work were unable to get there without significant delays.”

He described March as ‘habitually dishonest’, with previous convictions including the theft of copper cabling from a fan unit after he was bailed for the rail cabling charge. March was jailed for 36 months.

Father-of-five Yates was told by the judge: “I struggle to accept that you were appalled by the loss, it’s just something you did not apply your mind to. You played a full part once it was underway.”

Yates was jailed for 26 months.

Network Rail told Chad recently that workmen were forced to work through the night following the cable theft and had to replace 190 metres in total, such was the damage they caused.

They said six East Coast services from Leeds had to be cancelled and a further seven had to stop short of Nottinghamshire, most of which were Grand Central services from around the country.

In total, 129 trains were disrupted which amounted to more than 2,900 minutes of delays.

Network Rail welcomed the jail sentences handed out, with route managing director, Mark Tarry, saying: “This case demonstrates just how costly cable theft from the railway can be.

“Trespassing onto the network for any reason is extremely dangerous and as this case shows, it can end up costing the taxpayer huge sums of money to put right, as well as causing immense disruption and frustration for passengers trying to go about their daily lives.

“We are continually developing better ways to protect the network from cable thieves and will continue to work with the British Transport Police to prosecute anyone caught carrying out such a mindless act of vandalism.”