Thieves looking to cash in on the high price of copper have disrupted the morning commute of thousands of people in Melbourne.
Missing cables on the , which cuts through Melbourne's western suburbs, forced commuters onto buses this morning.
Globally, the theft of copper is driven by high world prices for the metal, and Metro Trains spokesman Daniel Hoare says it is not the first time thieves have targeted the city's rail infrastructure.
"The theft of copper is an ongoing problem, it's obviously a commodity that's sought after," Mr Hoare said.
"We have thieves stealing cables, they've been doing it over a number of years.
"We've noticed a spike of late, we've had two incidents over the last couple of days, and obviously overnight that was a very significant one for us, not being able to run trains the whole morning." Metal Recycling Industry Association secretary Paul Ryan says copper is worth between $5,000 and $6,000 a tonne.
He calls it poor man's gold and says the theft of copper cables from railways is not unusual.
"It's not only typical to Melbourne, it's typical around the world, unfortunately," he said.
"If you get on the internet, you'll find it's a problem in the US and the UK, and each different government has tried different mechanisms for reducing the incidents." But he concedes the theft of copper is not on the rise in Australia.
Mr Ryan says the industry has close links with police, particularly in Victoria, so any suspicious copper sales can be investigated.
"We've got a network that when we're notified that copper is stolen, police send a notification to dealers, and we've had some successes," he said.
"Crooks have showed up at dealers with some material, the material has been identified, and police are called and the crooks are arrested.
"So the system works, but it only works if material is identifiable." Dicing with death The problem with that system is that any piece of twisted, crushed or melted copper can look just like any other.
Mr Ryan says there is another proposal which would leave a paper trail for sales of scrap copper, but he does not think it will work.
"The New South Wales Attorney's-General department had a meeting two weeks ago to try and address this problem, and one of the things that came out for discussion was to eliminate the use of cash to pay people," he said.
"That's been considered by various governments on and off for some time.
"The problem is that our constitution says that cash is legal tender, it would be quite difficult to enforce it." There is another factor which for most people would act as a deterrent for copper thieves.
"There's no doubt that anybody who steals cables around a railway network is putting their lives at risk," Mr Hoare said.
"It's a very dangerous thing to do, there's very high voltage going through these cables at certain times and they are literally dicing with death."