November 22, 2006 - 9:40AM
Melbourne commuters have fallen victim to soaring world copper prices with thieves removing high-voltage overhead rail lines on one of metropolitan Melbourne's busiest lines.
The theft has caused massive disruption to peak morning train services with all services between Clifton Hill and Jolimont cancelled.
Thousands of passengers on the Epping and Hurstbridge lines are affected.
Connex was forced to cancel the services after thieves removed a section of the overhead lines, containing copper wiring, near West Richmond station this morning.
Connex spokeswoman Kate De Clercq said it was unclear when the theft happened but power to the section was shut off at 7.40am after the theft was discovered.
Thousands of commuters were stranded at Clifton Hill, with many opting setting out on foot for the city. Buses were shuttling passengers between Clifton Hill and Jolimont.
Ms De Clercq said services were expected to return to normal by 9.15am, easing the commuter jam at Clifton Hill soon after.
Ms De Clercq said the live wire voltage was "enough to kill" and the thieves must have acted "very carefully".
"There is a high possibility that someone could be electrocuted," she said.
"We're blaming the fact that copper prices around the world are so high and people are cashing in."
She said the theft would have triggered a "fail-safe" signalling fault that halted trains up and down the line, well away from where the theft took place.
Police say organised gangs have been moving into the scrap metal business to cash in on soaring world demand for copper and scrap metal, which has doubled in price in the past year.
More more than 350 kilometres of copper wiring has been stolen from the cable that ran between steel posts along the Ararat-Ballarat train line.
Copper piping, taps and electical wiring is being ripped from building sites and schools and up to two tonnes of copper at a time has been stolen from scrapyards in Melbourne.
The metal industry has been asked to be on the lookout for stolen copper. http://www.theage.com.au/news/...../1163871439703.html Edited to tidy up link
[This message has been edited by pauluk (edited 11-22-2006).]