EAST Lancashire’s railway network is to be patrolled by dedicated police in a bid to crack down on the rising menace of cable thefts.

In a shake-up of the way British Transport Police operates in the area, stations and rail services will have their own dedicated officers. The move mirrors the example set by Lancashire Police in promoting neighbourhood policing.

Inspector Mike Wedderburn said the force will shift focus from being largely responsive, to one that is more proactive.

Cable thefts have been a huge problem in recent months in East Lancashire, with incidents bringing the network to its knees on three occasions recently.

He said: “By having dedicated offi-cers we aim to be more aware of local issues and concerns, and will be able to tailor our activities to match those problems brought to our attention.

“It is a style that has worked well for Lancashire Constabulary and I’m sure BTP and the wider railway community will also see the benefits.” The most recent cable theft saw around 20 metres of 650-volt signalling power cables stolen between Rosegrove, in Burnley, and Hapton. It caused chaos, stopping all trains on the Northern Rail service between Blackburn and Colne for nine hours on April 29. Bosses said the overall disruption had cost operators more than £1million.

PC Vicky Griffiths and PC David Boardman will be responsible for the Blackburn, Darwen, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley areas, and PC Chris Haughton and PC Neil Rawsthorne will be responsible for policing all stations in Burnley and Pendle.

Mr Wedderburn said: “The officers will be out and about on trains and at stations and I encourage people to speak to them and discuss any concerns relating to the railway.”