Railway thefts threaten lives and the economy
NGHE AN (VNS)— Railway equipment and materials have been stolen in the central province of Nghe An recently, threatening safety and causing losses for the railway sector.
Last year, 40 cases were reported in which thieves stole more than 800 railway sleepers and other equipment, according to the provincial Railway Management Company.
In October last year, a thief removed 28 sleepers from along the tracks in Hung Nguyen District's Hung My Commune.
So far this year, more than 20 cases have been reported, with more than 600 sleepers and other equipment stolen.
The stolen equipment was sold to scrapyards.
Deputy director of the provincial Railway Management Company Tran Ba Ha said that all of the missing materials had been replaced by company patrols before any accidents might occur.
However, it had cost the company dozens of million of dong so far this year, and led to delays.
Each sleeper is worth around VND100,000 (US$4.7).
"Besides costing the company money, it also left the track in a very dangerous condition which could cause a train to overturn," said Ha.
Local police and patrols have also struggled to catch the thieves and only nabbed 25 per cent of the culprits last year, and this year, none have been apprehended.
Ha pointed out that Government Decree 126 issued in 2008 did not list railways as national security work, so authorities paid little attention to their security.
Punishment for those caught were also lenient, with fines of just a few hundred thousand dong, he said.
To compound the problem, thieves are often juveniles so police cannot start criminal proceedings against them.
From next month, the company, in co-ordination with local police, would raise the number of patrols to six times a day instead of two, said Ha.
The company would also instruct scrapyard owners not to buy railway equipment.
The province has hundreds of scrapyards which were ideal places for thieves to sell the sleepers, said Ha.
"However, these measures will not be effective if we do not have co-operation from authorities," he added.
Authorities should improve local residents' awareness of railway safety, especially the youth, which would be the most effective measure to prevent these robberies, he said.
Nghe An has nearly 100km of railway which run through eight towns and districts. — VNS