A drug and gambling addict who brought misery to thousands of rail passengers across the East Midlands area has been jailed for 26 months.
Lucas Niewiem, 35, was sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on Wednesday for stealing cable from the railway line in the Long Eaton and Nottingham areas on eight occasions in March and April last year.
Niewiem, who had previously admitted to using an axe to chop the cable from live lines, pocketed a total of just £1,000 for his crimes by selling the cable to a scrap metal dealer.
His actions, however, resulted in 3,267 minutes of delays to trains in the East Midlands area and cost Network Rail over £164,500.
Niewiem was arrested at his home address on Lawton Close in Nottingham on April 28 after he was identified through forensic evidence left at the scene.
When officers searched his house, a cannabis farm was discovered above a child's bedroom in the loft.
Twenty-four plants cultivating cannabis with a street value of £24,000 were found which Niewiem claimed to be growing for personal use.
Detective Inspector Gareth Davies, of British Transport Police, said: "Niewiem's drug and gambling addition led him to risk his life to target the railway to steal cable to fund his habit and lifestyle.
"His selfish actions resulted in misery for thousands of passengers who were left stranded on platforms waiting for delayed trains throughout the East Midland area in March and April last year."
Niewiem was given a 26-month jail term, 16 for the theft of cable, eight months behind bars for cannabis production and a further two-months' term for an unrelated theft, drugs and breach of a non-molestation order from January.
DI Davies added: "Cable theft is not a victimless crime; it costs the rail industry millions of pounds each year and disrupts passenger journeys and busy lives.
"We take this type of crime extremely seriously, and we will do all we can to bring offenders to justice.
"We worked closely with Network Rail and East Midlands Trains to secure the sentence against Niewem which we hope sends act as a deterrent to others."
Hayley Bull, community safety manager at Network Rail, said: "This case demonstrates just how costly cable theft from the railway can be.
"Trespassing onto the network for any reason is extremely dangerous, as well as being illegal.
"This incident shows how cable theft can end up costing the taxpayer huge sums of money to put right, as well as causing mass disruption to passengers trying to go about their daily lives.
"It also causes delays to improvement work, which is vital to create a more reliable railway.
"We are continually developing better ways to protect the railway from cable thieves and will continue to work with the British Transport Police to prosecute anyone caught carrying out such a mindless act of vandalism."
Sarah Potts, crime and security strategy manager for East Midlands Trains, said: "We are delighted with this result as cable theft not only costs the railway industry a lot of money but can cause significant disruption for travelling customers.
"The jail term demonstrates that we take cable theft seriously and will continue to support our partners at British Transport Police and Network Rail in seeking convictions for individuals who selfishly inconvenience our customers."