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Thieves stole signalling cable on one of the busiest rail routes in the country, causing fresh disruption to train services today.
South West Trains services into London Waterloo were delayed after the theft near Guildford in Surrey.
It was the latest in a spate of signalling cable thefts following three incidents last week which hit services into London Bridge, Paddington and across Sussex.
SWT parent firm Stagecoach has called on the Government to take tougher action to tackle the growing problem of cable theft.
Transport Minister Norman Baker said:
''Thefts like this cause misery for thousands of commuters and cause damage to the economy out of all proportion to the value of the cable itself.
''That is why I have recently met with both the British Transport Police and Network Rail to discuss what more can be done to tackle this problem and why I will shortly be discussing the issue with ministers from other Departments across Government - we need to rule out no options at this stage.
''Last year, the estimated cost to the UK from cable theft was #1 billion and even that enormous figure doesn't take into account the loss of working hours caused by well over 16,000 hours of train delays.''
Stagecoach Group chief executive Sir Brian Souter has written to Baroness Browning, Minister for Crime Prevention and Anti-Social Behaviour Reduction, seeking support for a package of proposals to target the thieves who bring misery to millions of rail passengers every year.
Sir Brian said:
''The organised theft of metals is having a huge impact on the rail industry and its passengers, as well as on other critical aspects of the national infrastructure.
''Many rail customers know from bitter personal experience the terrible effect this can have on their daily lives.
''As well as the human cost of disruption, criminal activity in this area is now so damaging to our wider economy that we simply must act.''
Bob Crow, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said:
''We have warned repeatedly that if you cut security and visible staffing you turn the rail network into a criminals' paradise and the chaos of cable thefts in recent weeks rams that point home.
''The gateway to the network for the thieves and vandals is unstaffed and unsecure stations and yet forcing through more of those key staff cuts is at the core of the McNulty rail review. It is nothing less than a charter for the rail robbers plundering the tracks.''