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'Massive' copper cable theft disrupts New York City subway

New York — A "massive" theft of copper wire disrupted A train services on New York City's Subway system during the morning rush hour commute on Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said.

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The MTA said it presumed the copper cable had been stolen to be sold for scrap.

"Hundreds of thousands of Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Transit subway customers were victimized this morning by a massive theft of copper cable from A line subway tracks near Howard Beach, Queens," the MTA said in a statement.

The MTA said the disruption led to crowding along all 31 miles of the A train. The theft of the power cables forced the MTA to suspend train service between Rockaway Boulevard and Broad Channel stations and replace it with shuttle buses during the morning rush.

It said the cable theft was discovered at 11:22 pm EDT (0322 GMT) on Tuesday night, when a northbound A train lost power north of Howard Beach station.

"The power cable was presumably stolen to be sold as scrap," the MTA said. "At least 500 feet of of the valuable cable was discovered stolen from roughly 12 locations along the A train tracks near Howard Beach, and some signal equipment and track components were damaged as well by electrical current that could not flow through the cable."

Reports of copper wire theft in general have become less frequent over the last year or so as copper prices have fallen on the London Metal Exchange. The LME official cash settlement for copper closed at $6,085/mt on Wednesday, down from $7,035/mt a year ago.

Copper wire theft from railways has been commonplace in the past. In the UK several incidents of copper wire theft from overhead power cables on railway lines have been reported.

The late Bob Crow, former general secretary of Britain's Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said in September 2011 that the theft of copper wire from railways was escalating out of control. At the time, the British Transport Police said the threat to railway infrastructure was unlikely to recede because of the scale of demand for copper.

--Anthony Poole,
--Edited by Derek Sands,