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British Transport Police

Over two years in jail for man who shut down the South Wales mainline and caused £50K worth of disruption

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A man who significantly damaged railway equipment at Bridgend, causing the South Wales mainline to shut down, has been jailed following a British Transport Police investigation.

Stephen Mulcahy, 42, and of Erw Hir, Bridgend, was found guilty of two counts of burglary, damage to property, and going equipped for theft. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison at Swansea Crown Court on 11 March.

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The court heard how at just after midnight on Friday 16 April 2021, Mulcahy arrived at Bridgend railway station with his dog and called the railway switchboard to enquire about train times.

A little while later, CCTV shows Mulcahy jumping from the platform onto the tracks with his dog and walking towards a railway compound.

At around 5am, Network Rail reported a power outage on the railway and suspicions grew as workers noticed a key was missing and a door to the generator building was left open.

Officers arrived on scene and found a rucksack on the platform containing rubber gloves and a set of bolt croppers.

Upon searching the compound, officers caught Mulcahy coming out of a building carrying metal signs. He claimed he was in the building looking for his dog, who had come off the lead, and asked officers if he could keep the signs which he had found.

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He was arrested, and upon search, officers found a pair of scissors and set of keys for the generator building in his pocket.

Significant damage had been caused in the building, including several cables pulled from their termination points, which triggered the loss of power to the railway signalling.

The damage to railway equipment affected 33 trains, delayed the network for a total of 1,209 minutes and cost the railway £53,561 in disruption. Over £5,000 in damage repairs was also caused to the compound.

The history of the power supply indicated the damage to the cabling occurred at approximately 4am and CCTV and forensics placed Mulcahy at the scene.

Sign stolen by Mulcahy (Image: BTP)
Bolt cutters Mulcahy had been carrying (Image: BTP)
Damage caused to the cabling system (Image: BTP)

BTP Detective Constable Dan Murdoch said: “This was a determined act which cost the railway thousands of pounds and caused significant disruption to passengers, including to key workers who may have relied on public transport in the middle of the pandemic.

“These sentences demonstrate just how seriously the courts take such incidents, and we hope this will give Mulcahy time to reflect on his actions and stop him from committing similar offences in the future.

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“We are committed to tackling all forms of criminal damage and work closely with Network Rail and other industry partners to make the railway a difficult place for these criminals to operate.”

Bill Kelly, Wales & Borders route director at Network Rail said: “This was a mindless and incomprehensible act of vandalism that had very serious consequences for the railway in South Wales and beyond – affecting our passengers and freight customers and wasting thousands of pounds of taxpayer’s money.

“The sentence handed down sends a powerful signal: these crimes won’t go unpunished, and I’d like to pay tribute to the Network Rail colleagues involved and the British Transport Police. This conviction demonstrates the strength of our partnership across Wales and Borders as we work together to stamp out crime on the rail network.”

(Lead image: South Wales Police)

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