The theft of copper cables from Britain's railways is reaching epidemic proportions, costing the operator Network Rail millions of pounds as it takes on extra staff to catch the criminals and pays out compensation to train companies for delays on the system. Copper theft from railway lines jumped by 67% to 3,116 incidents in the year to April as metal prices have soared and Britain's stumbling recovery from recession has continued to push impoverished groups into crime, according to the British Transport Police. [...] The damage is also taking a financial toll, costing Network Rail £43m in compensation and repair charges in the past three years, as thousands of incidents led to nearly 1m minutes of delays. [...] Economic hardship has been blamed for the rise in thefts but the soaring price of copper has made it more lucrative. Copper has tripled to about $9,000 (£5,486) a tonne in under three years as fast-growing emerging markets such as China demand more of the metal, which is used in wiring, to feed its construction boom. [...] The number of copper thefts is closely aligned to the price of the metal, meaning that an increase in speculation by pension funds and other investors at one end is likely to filter through to an increase in train service disruptions at the other.
"[It] can only get worse. If someone is desperate and determined they will find a way. [...] Copper [prices are] likely to keep rising and the austerity measures aren't helping."
- Steve White, Network Rail engineer
I have been reading near-identical stories in Danish media about the Danish railways.