POLICE are hunting for thieves who stole metal cable from a railway line in Selby causing £100,000 damage.

The thieves risked life and limb to steal high-voltage electricity cables the railway line near to Hambleton South Junction in Selby, say police.

PC Jacqueline Wilson, the investigating officer, said that 180 metres of cable was stolen, but that nearly 1,000 metres will need to be replaced as a result.

"The act of stealing cable is extremely dangerous and we want to hear from anyone with any information about this incident,” she said.

"What the thieves don't realise is that they are working on live cable, carrying up to 25,000 volts, which can cause extensive burns. By attempting to steal it they are seriously putting their lives at risk.”

The damage the railway line near to Hambleton South Junction in Selby was discovered by Network Rail engineers on Wednesday September 22, who reported the damage to police.

PC Wilson said there has been a soaring rise in copper thefts in the past year, fuelled by increasing commodity prices, and said cable and metal theft is a constant issue for British Transport Police.

"Officers visit scrap yards to monitor goods which are brought in to quickly identify stolen cable as many thieves look to make money by selling their material on,” she said.

"We have also increased surveillance and patrols in problematic areas and hot-spots as well as fitting covert cameras to film the thieves at work and bring them to justice."

Network Rail said that as soon as a cable was cut, trains had to stop for safety reasons and it could be several hours before services could be resumed, meaning a a major impact on its performance and a constant drain on resources.

Richard Lungmuss, route director for Network Rail, said: "This is not acceptable. We are already carrying out considerable work to deter thieves and to respond to incidents quickly in order to minimise delay. I would also ask anyone with any information to report their suspicions to Crimestoppers - they could receive up to £1,000 reward."

Anyone with information regarding this incident, or who sees any suspicious activity on the railway, should contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.