"He may be acting in revenge for a real act of injustice or just a perceived one. He will get a sense of power and control from being able to deal Network Rail a substantial hit financially and to its customers' loyalty. The best way of catching him is probably the geographic approach studying the pattern of attacks to figure out where he might live and work." Ironically, the rail wrecker is conducting his campaign at a time when a co-ordinated, industrywide approach to improved security has succeeded in significantly reducing vandalism on the network.
Spreading the message to schools that railway lines are dangerous has also made an impact.
There were 610 acts of vandalism in 2003-4, a 39 per cent drop since the turn of the century, though the crime still accounts for 55 per cent of all serious rail accidents.
DCI Sidebottom calls the frustrating investigation a "cat and mouse" game. If that's so, the rail wrecker is a mouse that roars, sending thousands of commuters like Sue Fox scuttling round stations and shunting all over the Midlands in diverted trains and buses at his slightest whim.