THIEVES have been risking their lives to steal cable from road works on the M62.
They are also putting drivers at risk by their actions, but engineers from the Highways Agency are working hard to thwart them, using the latest scientific tools.
In a bid to deter the thieves, the Highways Agency has marked the cables with SmartWater – a liquid with a unique chemical ‘code’.
If the cables are stolen and the substance is later found on suspects, their tools or on recovered cables, the police can use it to identify the original owners and prosecute the alleged thieves.
The Agency has also revealed that much of the cable which is being used in the huge managed motorway project from Brighouse is fibre-optic cable, which does not have the metal scrap value of conventional cable.
The thieves are striking at night, ripping cables from the side of the busy motorway above Huddersfield.
The Agency is currently building the region’s first managed motorway on the M62 between junctions 25 and 30.
A ‘managed motorway’ is created by overhead electronic signs displaying variable speed limits to control traffic speeds; sensors in the road measure how fast vehicles are travelling, so can highlight when congestion builds; signs over the hard shoulder let road users know when the hard shoulder is available as an extra traffic lane; and CCTV cameras monitor the network.
The section of road, once live, will be managed and operated from the Agency’s regional control centre in Wakefield.
Highways Agency project manager David Pilsworth said: “Managed motorways use a range of technology, such as CCTV cameras to monitor the carriageway for congestion and overhead electronic signs which display the variable speed limit, so these cables are vital for the scheme to operate successfully.
“Although we have had a small number of incidents on the M62, cable theft is a very real problem that can cause extensive disruption on the transport network, so it is important we do all we can to prevent it.
“Not only are the thieves putting road users at risk and potentially costing taxpayers’ money, but they are also putting their own lives at risk.
“Marking the cables with SmartWater is a proven theft deterrent – once it gets on skin or clothes, it is very difficult to remove and because it has its own unique chemical code embedded into it, the police are able to quickly identify where it has come from.”
The Highways Agency has been and will continue to work closely with West Yorkshire Police.