Network Rail has introduced sniffer dogs to try to reduce the theft of signalling cables in the North West.
The exercise includes using SelectaDNA, a permanent synthetic spray that is only visible under special police torches so that metal can be easily identified after it goes missing. The chemical has a unique scent which the dogs can detect, and leads directly to stolen supplies being illegally sold by scrap metal dealers.
NR has conceded that tough laws imposed almost a decade ago have failed to stop 330 incidents a year nationwide, costing the taxpayer around £16 million.
Figures released on February 22 reveal that there have been 31 serious incidents in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria since 2017. This includes serious damage to signalling on the West Coast Main Line at the start of the first national COVID-19 lockdown two years ago.
Overall, they caused 30,000 minutes of train delays, which are costed at £1.3m.