“The thieves are risking their lives for a few euros and do not only cause great material damage for Deutsche Bahn but create problems for above all our customers,” Gerd Neubeck, the rail operator’s head of security told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The paper on Tuesday reported figures showing the damage caused by metal thieves who target railway tracks and overhead cables for the copper, which is easy to sell for cash.
The profits to be made are increasingly attractive as commodity prices have been rising fast. The paper said experts estimated the cost of such thefts across Europe could be nearly €9 billion.
Deutsche Bahn got together last summer with energy producer RWE, Deutsche Telekom and the Association of German Metal Dealers to form a security association to swap ideas and experiences as well as information about new thefts.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported figures collected by this group, showing that last year metal thieves struck Deutsche Bahn 2,700 times, around 4,000 hours of train delays. Energy firm RWE was also hit 423 times last year, causing €2.1 million worth of damage.
In one case in the Rhineland a tram driver found himself stranded in the middle of town because the overhead cables were missing.
“There was actually a significant section missing,” said Ulrich Leuning, manager of the Federal Association of German Steel Recycling and Disposal Companies (BDSV). “Thieves had cut it out just shortly beforehand.”
Various attempts are being made to mark copper cable so that it can be identified as stolen when being offered for sale.