Five railway industry workers have been jailed for their parts in the theft of track and other materials worth up to £1.5 million.
The “industrial scale” thefts from Network Rail projects, including an upgrade of the West Coast Main Line in the Rugby area, saw lorry-loads of used rails diverted to unauthorised scrap-yards.
A judge sitting at Birmingham Crown Court yesterday jailed John Burtenshaw, 53, Terence Doherty, 48, Stuart Amphlett, 33, Paul Tandon, 47, and 41-year-old Neil Jones for conspiracy to steal.
Two other men – Nicky Halloran, 27, and 43-year-old Roy Skinner – were given suspended sentences after admitting respective charges of conspiracy to steal and theft.
An earlier hearing was told that Doherty had been sub-contracted by rail firm Jarvis to remove track, and conspired with Burtenshaw, a Jarvis plant manager, to steal metal and sleepers which should have been taken to authorised recyclers.
The trial at Warwick Crown Court heard that Network Rail should have received the value of the scrap.
A lengthy investigation carried out by British Transport Police (BTP) revealed that Doherty and Burtenshaw used their positions to steal up to 3,500 tonnes of rail worth up to £1.5 million.
The offences first came to light in August 2008 when a check of scrap dealers in Staffordshire revealed 208 tonnes of rail which was identified as having been removed from the Rugby upgrade project.
Subsequent inquiries implicated Jones and Tandon, who worked as supervisors for a sub-contractor, and Amphlett, who worked as a logistics manager for another firm.
Commenting on the case, Detective Sergeant Chris Hearn said: “This case clearly shows just how damaging metal theft is to communities but it also demonstrates just how determined BTP is to tackle those who perceive the railway to be a soft target.”