Rugby rail theft trail: ‘80 tonnes stolen in one day’

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A JURY has heard how around 80 tonnes of redundant rail track were stolen in just one day from a project to improve Network Rail’s West Coast Mainline through Rugby.

Four HGV drivers were hired that day to collect old track from one of the project’s storage yards in Rugby to carry it to a scrap yard in north Birmingham.

The haul on one day in August 2008 was among track worth up to £1million which had been stolen from Network Rail between January 2005 and December 2008 during the improvement work.

Five men, including employees of rail maintenance firm Jarvis, are on trial at the court after pleading not guilty to stealing railway track from Network Rail in the Rugby area.

They are Michael Quarless, 23, of Wolverhampton; Neil Jones, 41, of Wednesbury; Roy Skinner, 43, of Harwich, Essex; Mark Norman, 36, of Ilkeston, Derbyshire; and George Godkin, 49, of Cambridge.

In addition Godkin has denied conspiring with two other men to steal track in the area of Bury in Lancashire where work on the Manchester Metro line was taking place.

Several other men including Jarvis plant manager John Burtenshaw, 51, from Milton Keynes, have admitted being involved in one or other of the conspiracies between 2005 and 2008.

Prosecutor Malcolm Morse said HGV driver John Colfer, who had his own business but sometimes also drove for a haulage company called RJC, was asked to work over the weekend of 16-17 August 2008.

On the Saturday he carried out general haulage around the yards, and that night he slept in his lorry cab. The next morning he had a call asking him to go to the ‘Valley Sports yard,’ and when he got there a young man gave him directions to a spot where his lorry was loaded with several lengths of redundant rail weighing around 12 tonnes.

Also there was another RJC driver, Dave Clarke, and by 9.30 in the morning both their lorries had been loaded and they were told they would get instructions on where they were to go.

An ‘Asian-looking man,’ who has been identified as Paul Tandon, 47, of Great Barr, Birmingham, then got into Mr Clarke’s cab, and directed them to the HW Taroni scrap yard in Aston Church Road, Aston, Birmingham.

Tandon, who had rented a section of the yard, got out and opened the gates with keys he had with him.

Rather than one lorry going in at a time, “he insisted that both these big vehicles should be brought into the yard straight away and the gate shut behind them,” said Mr Morse.

They were unloaded, and the drivers saw the rail they had been carrying being off-loaded onto a huge pile of scrap rail which one of them estimated to weigh between 70 and 100 tonnes.

Mr Clarke had arrived at the yard in Rugby at six that morning and had been directed by Tandon to a pile of around 80 tonnes of redundant rail, of which 9 tonnes was loaded onto his vehicle. After that first trip to Aston they returned to the Valley Sports yard where the exercise was repeated with a second load of rails.

Another RJC driver, Paul Cutting, was also sent to work at the Valley Sports yard that Sunday where his lorry was loaded from two piles of scrap rail on either side of the track.

He was introduced by another driver, Christopher Warren, to Tandon who got into his cab and directed him to a scrap yard Mr Cutting described as being “just off the M6 behind Star City,” and then made a second round trip, as did Mr Warren.

And Mr Morse commented to the jury: “We have now been through four drivers operating quite independently who have arrived on that one day and have been sent on, led by a vehicle with Paul Tandon in it, to a scrap yard in north Birmingham.”

The trial continues.