Thieves Put Road Users At Risk Again

80 covers stolen in the past year in the borough

Road users are once again being put at risk by thieves stealing drain and gully covers from the capital's roads, councillors are warning.

Hundreds of cast iron covers, some dating back to Victorian times, are thought to have been stolen across London for their scrap metal value.

In Wandsworth alone, six have been stolen in the past month. Earlier this year another seven went missing from the borough’s roads. 

By removing them the thieves are leaving gaping holes in the road surface, leaving a potential death trap for cyclists, bikers and pedestrians. Car owners also face hefty repair bills if they drive over one.

Councils across the capital are replacing the covers as quickly as possible, but because they were constructed so long ago, there is no standard size replacement and often the whole gully needs to be reconstructed, which inevitably takes time.

To deter the thieves from stealing the replacements, Wandsworth is now using a new hinged design which means that the grid cannot be lifted out of the frame and removed.

Transport spokesman Cllr Russell King said:
"The increase in scrap metal prices over the past couple of years has led to a steady rise in this type of theft.  All road users, but particularly cyclists and motorcyclists need to pay very careful attention to the road surface in front of them, especially if they are travelling when it’s dark.  These thefts tend to happen at night, so even if you are familiar with the route you are taking please bear in mind that the thieves may have left a hole in the road. 

“If you see anyone tampering with these metal covers, please dial 999 immediately and call the police.  And if you spot an uncovered drain or gully please report it to us straight away so we can put in a temporary cover as quickly as possible. Please don't assume someone else has reported it. We would rather get lots of calls about the same gully than none at all."

Since Wandsworth first raised this as a matter of concern in 2010, around 80 covers have been stolen across the borough leaving taxpayers with a £30,000 bill for replacements.

To report a missing cover or any other street defect telephone (020) 8871 6718 or email

July 7, 2011

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Wandsworth Council