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Copper thieves cut off Sweden's main rail line

4 Apr 2012, 14:37

Published: 04 Apr 2012 14:37 GMT+02:00

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Passengers on ten trains that normally travelled on a stretch of track on the Southern Main Line (Södra stambanan) between Tranås and Nässjö in south central Sweden were forced to disembark and take buses in order to get past the affected area.

Tuesday's copper wire theft was the latest episode in what officials from the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) have labeled "sabotage" whereby daring and entrepreneurial thieves risk their lives to profit from the rising price of copper.

"We have to view this as a problem for society when the thefts are so widespread that they can be compared with the sabotage of important societal infrastructure," agency head Gunnar Malm said in a statement.

In the last half of 2011, Sweden's rail lines were hit by 147 copper thefts, according to Transport Administration figures, resulting in an estimated 120 million kronor ($13.5 million) in additional repair and surveillance costs.

In mid-March, some 200 trains travelling along the same 60-kilometre stretch of track between Tranås and Nässjö were halted for 12 hours.

The theft of the copper line was so large that authorities theorized the thieves likely needed a large truck to make off with their booty.

Investigators believe the thieves were dressed as rail repair workers in order to avoid detection.

Despite the fact that the cables cut by the thieves are high-voltage wires, there are occasions when the cables aren't conducting electricity.

"The thieves know exactly when they should cut. They even take the grounding cables," Linus Eriksson, a manager with the Transport Administration, told the TT news agency following the March thefts.

While passengers grumble about delayed trains, Eriksson explained that freight traffic has also been hard hit by the copper thefts.

"The Southern Main Line is the main artery of Swedish rail traffic from north to south and these have huge affects," he said.

Story continues below…

However, cutting the high-voltage lines in order to procure high-priced copper can be a deadly business, as one unlucky would-be copper thief found out in early 2011.

The fatal attempted robbery took place about a year ago near Helsingborg in southwestern Sweden when a 32-year-old man was electrocuted and died after clipping a live wire carrying 16,000 volts of electricity.

TT/The Local/dl


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Your comments about this article

07:53 April 5, 2012 by SimonDMontfort
Desperate stuff.

Can only assume the risks attached to this activity are outweighed by the likely reward...
08:24 April 5, 2012 by SecondGen
I only have one word to say, shocking!
09:44 April 5, 2012 by Cephalectomy
this happens in many countries very often, they should have prepared to avoid that, or replace and solve the problem quicker, as we're told when things like this happen, you have insurance ;)
10:50 April 5, 2012 by Twiceshy
> "wire carrying 16,000 volts of electricity."

Time for some facts:

1- Wires don't carry "volts of electricity". The volt unit does not measure quantity of electricity.

2- It's not the high voltage that kills you, it's the high current. Have you ever gotten a shock from static electricity? Such a shock can involve several millions of volts and yet all you get is a little pain...
11:53 April 5, 2012 by Da Goat
In Africa the telecom companies don't do fixed line telephones they just go straight to wireless as the thieves have not worked out how to steal the wireless!

they were digging in cables only to find them dug up the next morning.

looks like they have not worked out wireless so have moved to Sweden to take down the trains!

Not so long ago there was some pictures of some blackened bodies next to a high power cable emailed around the net, quite disturbing photos

@ twice shy

As a past telecomunications technician (electrical engineer) your facts are a bit fuzzy (false) the first fact is incorrect power is volts x Amps , think of pressure and current in a hose = voltage and current respectively therefore it is in fact the voltage (pressure) that is dangerous, cutting a high voltage wire is like cutting a pressure washer hose ..... Dangerous.

pressure washers use high pressure low current and will cut you!

fact two is it takes 15 milliamps to kill you! (opposite of what you say)

static is just a charge (no current) if you hear it it is like 15000 volts and see it it is like 20-30000 volts probably you can pull 100,000 volts maybe even two but not million that would simply jump the gap anywhere, you need a Tesla coil to pull that sort of electrical pressure.

I have seen a low voltage accident as well (@ 50 volts you can not even feel it normally) a guy with a metal watch band lost his balance and put it across the buss bars in a step x step exchange .... needless to say the watch vaporised leaving 3rd degree burns (I have worn a plastic watch ever since) that is like a big (drain) pipe of water being cut (high current)
12:47 April 5, 2012 by Twiceshy
@Da Goat:

Thank you for supporting my point by stating that "power = volts x Amps", which of course means that high voltage by itself is not enough to kill you.

> "fact two is it takes 15 milliamps to kill you! (opposite of what you say)"

How is that opposite of what I said? I specifically stated that current is the real killer, and that is exactly what you're saying again... milliamps is a measure of current and not voltage.

> static is just a charge (no current)

But a static discharge transfers current at a very high voltage. The current is very small which is why it doesn't kill anyone even at millions of volts...
05:31 April 6, 2012 by volvoman9
Just to clarify some points. The water analogy is correct and in fact it takes less than 1/10th of an ampere to initiate ventricular fibrillation in an average size human.

However voltage and amperage are inversely proportional so as voltage increases the amperage decreases. Most distribution circuits operate at relatively low amperage compared to household voltages. It is the fault current that these circuits can develop that are so injurious to humans. Imagine being microwaved alive. The current super excites the molecules of conductive liquid (mostly water)in the tissue causing immense heat and destruction. This fault current occurs when the normal path of electron flow is diverted to ground by anything contacting both the earth and the conductor at the same time. If there is no simultaneous contact then no event occurs; the bird on the wire. The electron flow takes the path of least resistance.

The analogy of voltage equaling pressure is also correct but at very high voltages the damage may still occur because of a combination of factors. The static charge is similar to the effect of an electric fence or a Tazer. High voltage low amperage but enough to create cardiac arrest or burns in some.
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