It’s not just the UK that has trouble with cable theft.
The Belgian network suffered three attacks in August in the area of Gembloux, some 50km southeast of Brussels on the main line to Namur and Luxembourg.
At 05:30 on Monday 12 August, cables were found to be missing at Saint-Denis-Bovesse, to the north of the city of Namur. Trains between Gembloux and Namur were cancelled or diverted for two hours while the missing copper cables were replaced with aluminium ones, to make them less attractive to thieves.
Ten days later, on 22 August, a 12km section of line was closed between Mont-Saint-Guibert and Gembloux following a theft of cable from concrete troughing along the route. Trains were diverted while infrastructure manager Infrabel worked to repair the damage. Again, it took about two hours but the knock-on effect delayed trains for much of the morning.
Then, just eight days later, on 30 August, thieves struck again in the same vicinity, in the village of Rhisnes, just north of Namur, at around 02:30. This time, their van got stuck in a muddy field and was abandoned, but a quantity of cable still went missing and, of course, the damage to the infrastructure was already done, stopping trains again, which were replaced by a bus service.
Infrabel has reported that there have been around 125 cable thefts in Belgium so far in 2019, causing almost 158 hours of delays.
It’s an ongoing problem. In October 2018, police in Liège recovered 19 tonnes of copper cable and arrested 20 people in a major operation to clamp down on cable theft, but, seemingly, there has been little long-term improvement.