THIEVES risked their lives to steal 420ft of cable from the railway line in Oakham.
The live copper cable was taken close to the A606 rail bridge on the bypass in Oakham between 9.30pm on Saturday, June 4, and Monday, June 6.
British Transport Police are investigating and have stepped up patrols in the area.
Sgt Mark Rushin, from the transport police based in Leicester, said it was an “extremely dangerous crime”.
He said: “This could have caused serious injuries to the attackers.
“During the process, 140 yards of live cable was cut and stolen from the line. We believe that due to the sheer volume of cable that was stolen, there may have been a group of people, and a vehicle involved to transport the cable away from the crime scene.”
Fortunately there were no delays to commuters because it wasn’t signalling cabling stolen.
Sgt Rushin said transport police were now working with scrapyards in the area incase the stolen cable was offered for sale.
He said: “We work closely with scrapyard owners to monitor any cable which is brought in and, with assistance from railway and telecoms experts, can quickly identify stolen cable.”
Network Rail, working in partnership with the charity Crimestoppers, is offering a reward of up to £1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any cable thieves.
It comes as British Transport Police announced cable thefts had risen 70 per cent in the last year, despite an overall decrease of 2.9 per cent in crime on the railways. It said there were 2,712 cable thefts in 2010/11 compared with 1,593 in the previous 12 months.
Last week, James Sorby, 22, from Leeds, was in the news after being badly injured in a 21,000 volt shock from a power line, while trying to steal cabling.
Anyone with information on the theft should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or British Transport Police on 0800 405040, quoting reference number B8/NEA of June 8.
British Transport Police were also at the main level crossing in Oakham on Thursday last week, where they spoke to almost 300 motorists and pedestrians about the dangers of the level crossing.
A warning was issued to drivers in March, when there had been 20 offences at the main level crossing compared to none the previous year.
Since then, there have been 25 further offences and a camera was installed by Network Rail in April to stop motorists ignoring the barrier signals.