Cyclists, motorbike riders and other road users are being put at risk by thieves who are stealing drain and gully covers from the capital's roads.
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, seven have been stolen in the past month, with roads in Battersea particularly badly hit.
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 their wheels fall into one of these holes.
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 Ravi Govindia says: "Unfortunately with scrap metal prices having risen steadily in recent months, these thefts are on the increase.
"We would like to warn road users, but particularly cyclists and motorcycle riders, to pay very careful attention to the road surface in front of them, especially if they are travelling when it is dark.
"These thefts tend to happen at night and so even if you are very familiar with the route you are taking please bear in mind that the thieves may have left a gaping hole in the road surface in front of you.
"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 last year, 70 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 firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
April 15th, 2011