Crime prevention and risk management specialist, SmartWater Technology Ltd, has signed a multi-million pound deal with Network Rail to protect the infrastructure of its London to North West (LNW) mainline.
Network Rail will deploy the full range of SmartWater’s Royal awarding-winning risk and crime suppression strategy to protect trackside cable and other materials from theft and vandalism.
The theft of metal has cost Network Rail over £35million in repair bills and fines since the 2006/07 financial year and has been responsible for 1,165,000 minutes of commuter delays.
SmartWater will now provide Network Rail with a multi-faceted approach to crime prevention, interweaving risk management, intelligence gathering, strategic deployment, forensic technology and an ongoing consultancy service.
The campaign will also mark the first time that SmartWater’s new forensic trap devices will be deployed to capture and convict persistent offenders. Once activated, the non-hazardous devices will douse offenders in a chemically coded liquid, which will cover their skin, clothing and hair. This can be used to link them back to a particular crime scene, long after the offence has taken place.
These devices will be used in pre-defined hotspot areas across Network Rail’s LNW line, which runs through several major cities including parts of London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.
SmartWater will also be deploying forensic coding to mark sections of trackside cable with a chemical liquid that is virtually impossible to remove and able to withstand burning.
This will act as a major deterrent to thieves by allowing any stolen metals to be easily identified by Police, who are stepping up visits to scrap yards and recycling centres. This will also make it increasingly difficult for thieves to sell on any stolen goods.
In order to secure this contract SmartWater’s forensic marking products had to achieve Network Rail product acceptance. SmartWater products were subjected to rigorous safety assessments and performance checks to ensure they were fit for purpose and suitably robust. Due to the stringent nature of the testing no other marking product besides SmartWater holds this accreditation.
SmartWater Chief Executive, Phil Cleary, said: “Metal theft is an international problem and we are committed to working with Network Rail, as well as the Police and other Law Enforcement Agencies, to continue to tackle this issue. SmartWater has developed a long term strategy to combat this type of theft which will see the deployment of an array of sophisticated products and crime prevention measures. ”
Jo Kaye, Network Rail’s route director, said: “Cable theft is a massive drain on our resources and a major inconvenience to train operators, their passengers and freight. Cable theft has cost the company over £35m in compensation and damage repairs since 2006. That is effectively wasted money that would be better spent improving and enhancing the railways for the benefit of everyone.”
Gary Hambling, Virgin Trains’ head of fleet and engineering explains: “Cable thieves often do more than just steal cable as they leave troughing lids, tools or materials strewn on or near the line, which is an added hazard to trains. We have worked closely with NR and the police in the past two years to fit trains with forward facing cameras and installed IT processes that allow us to download data from the train to Network Rail in minutes. The use of SmartWater and investment and training in people to use the equipment has to be a positive way forward for the industry.”
Earlier this year SmartWater was deployed along an isolated hotspot area of track in the West Midlands and it is also used on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. In these areas there have been no further cable thefts. Signs to warn thieves about this initiative have now been positioned on trackside fencing along the LNW route to deter anyone from trespassing onto the rail line.