UK: Network Rail Enlists Sniffer Dogs in Crackdown on Metal Theft

Network Rail has introduced specially trained sniffer dogs to track down metal thieves.

Ronnie detecting some marked metal
Ronnie detecting some marked metal

These criminals steal cables and materials from the railway, causing major delays to both passenger and freight services.

Figures from Network Rail show that since 2017 there have been 333 incidents of serious metal theft across the UK. This includes serious damage to the signalling system on the West Coast Main Line near Crewe during the first national Covid-19 lockdown.

These incidents caused trains to be delayed for a total of almost 291,000 minutes – or over 200 days – costing the taxpayer just shy of 16 million GBP (19m euros | 22m USD).

As part of Network Rail’s fight back against metal theft, railway property is now being marked with a permanent synthetic solution called SelectaDNA. This is only visible under special torches, which can help the police find and identify stolen material after it goes missing.

The spray also has a unique scent which the dogs can detect, leading police directly to any stolen supplies illegally on sale at scrap metal dealers.

Provided by Search Dogs UK, the dogs will be used to fight metal theft along the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Crewe, the Chiltern Main Line and key West Midlands and North West rail routes.

Andrea Graham, Head of Crime and Security for Network Rail’s North West and Central region, said:

“Metal theft continues to cause huge problems for passengers and freight customers at a very significant cost to our business – which is of course funded by the taxpayer.

“We’re always looking at new ways to crack down on criminals and now we have man’s best friend on the case too.

“Our message to thieves who think they can steal from us is clear – we will find you and bring you to justice, because you’re not only putting your own life at risk by trespassing on the tracks, but also the lives of our passengers and staff.”

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