News-based English language activities from the global newspaper

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November 2010

Level ≥ Advanced Style ≥ Individual or group activities
Welcome to the Guardian Weekly’s special news-based materials to support learners and teachers of English. Each month, the Guardian Weekly newspaper selects topical news articles that can be used to practise English language skills. The materials are graded for two levels: Advanced and Lower Intermediate. These worksheets can be downloaded free from You can also find more advice for teachers and learners from the Guardian Weekly’s Learning English section on the site. Materials prepared by Janet Hardy-Gould

Copper theft adds to UK travel misery

Delays ... 11,000 trains a year are hit by crime Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Before reading
1 The article is about transport delays. Make notes to complete the following sentences. Compare your your answers in small groups. a Typical causes of delays to trains or buses in my country are … b The worst delay to a journey that I have experienced was when … c Delays to bus and train journeys in my country could be improved by …

2 Look at the headline, photo and caption of the article. Answer the questions with a partner. a What are people stealing in the UK? Why do you think they might be stealing it? b Where do you think people are stealing it from? c What problems is this theft causing?


News-based English language activities from the global newspaper

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November 2010
3 Vocabulary from the article. The text contains some compound nouns. Match these nouns to the definitions. There has recently been a terrible crimewave in a the town. The government has started a taskforce to deal b with the problem. All the people in this household have been c victims of crime. The burglar left a fingerprint on the broken d window. Thieves have also stolen things from the e trackside at railway stations. There have been problems with the rail network f in many areas. 1 a mark left by a person’s hand; the police can use this to identify a criminal 2 a sudden increase in the number of burglaries or thefts 3 the place along the edge of a railway line 4 a group of people who are brought together to deal with a particular problem 5 a complicated system of roads, railway lines etc that are connected 6 all the people living together in one home 4 The taskforce is calling for tougher sentencing and legislation to give the police greater power over dealers who sell on the stolen copper. 5 “Metal thieves targeting the railway are causing misery to thousands of passengers and freight users and costing the industry, and the wider economy, tens of millions a year and rising,” said Dyan Crowther, Network Rail’s director of operational services. 6 Gangs are disabling swaths of the rail network by ripping out lines attached to track signals, which use copper to convey control centre messages and power. Once power is lost to rail signals, the lights immediately switch to red until repair teams arrive, causing instant disruption. 7 Trackside raids diminished in late 2008 as the global copper price fell but have picked up again and are reaching unprecedented levels as prices have headed back to levels last seen in 2006 and 2007. 8 The rail network is not the only victim. Hundreds of householders in the coastal village of Lympne, in Kent, had their phone and internet broadband services cut after the theft of copper cabling. 9 Earlier this year, 400 households in Bolton, north-west England, were affected by a power surge triggered by copper thieves, which caused household appliances to catch fire. 10 Last month, telecoms company BT said it would begin to use SmartWater technology – a seemingly invisible liquid that will be used to coat the inner core and outer shell of its copper cable to create a forensic fingerprint. “Cable theft affects not only us as a business, but millions who rely on phones and broadband services,” Bernie Auguste, BT Openreach’s head of security, said. “We’re fighting back.” Dan Milmo and Helen Carter

Copper theft adds to UK travel misery
1 British train users have heard many explanations for delays, from leaves on the line to the wrong kind of snow. Now there is a new excuse: the price of copper.

2 Soaring demand from China and India has pushed copper theft from railway infrastructure to record levels in Britain. The crimewave has hit 11,000 trains in a year and delayed a million passengers. 3 Network Rail has set up a taskforce to deal with incidents that have seen $56m worth of copper stripped from tracksides since 2006. If the epidemic is unchecked, the annual takings of thieves will be $32m a year by 2014, Network Rail estimates.


News-based English language activities from the global newspaper

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November 2010

infrastructure (noun) the basic systems and services that are needed to run a country or organisation. Network Rail (noun) a company that operates the UK’s rail infrastructure swath (noun) a large area of something unprecedented (adjective) that has never happened before surge (noun) a sudden increase in something

d 2008?

did the number of thefts go down in

e in the UK did people have their communications cut?

While reading
1 Read the article. Write true or false next to the sentences. Underline where you find the information in the text. The theft of copper in the UK … a is linked to the international demand for the metal. b will cost the rail company $56m a year in the future. c is causing problems to both travellers and the UK economy. d makes signals on the railway system turn to green. e could be stopped in the future by SmartWater technology. 1

f was there an energy surge caused by thieves in Bolton?

g exactly does the SmartWater technology work?

2 Complete the questions with these words. Then answer the questions. how, how many, what, when, where, who, why other two excuses have been given a for UK train delays?

After reading
Phrasal verbs - What do these phrasal verbs from the article mean? a Network Rail has set up a taskforce … (paragraph 3)

b The taskforce is calling for tougher sentencing. (para 4) b problem? trains are affected every year by this c … greater powers over dealers who sell on the stolen copper. (para 4)

c angrily described some of the wider problems caused by the theft?

d Gangs are disabling swaths of the rail network by ripping out lines … (para 6)


News-based English language activities from the global newspaper

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November 2010

e … the copper prices fell but have picked up again … (para 7)

Activity – writing a profile
In the article, copper is being stolen because it is an important international commodity. Decide if you agree [A] or disagree [D] with these statements about commodities. There’s nothing new about the theft of a a commodity like copper. People have been stealing gold and silver for centuries. In the future, our daily lives will become b increasingly affected by the international commodity market. The race to find scarce commodities will be the c main cause of war in the future. In the next 50 years, people will begin to explore d other planets and bring back commodities. e Clean water will one day become the world’s most valuable commodity. Make notes about why you agree or disagree. Look back at the article to find useful vocabulary. Then discuss the statements in small groups.

f … prices have headed back to levels last seen in 2006 … (para 7)

2 Use the correct form of the phrasal verbs from exercise 1 to complete the sentences below. a Thieves broke into the signal box yesterday and the cables. b Now, rail companies an increase in the number of transport police. c Experts believe that next year unemployment towards 1992 levels. d The police want to a new department to stop the crimewave. e Last week, the value of gold and increased in value by 15%. f The thief was caught when he tried to the metal to another criminal.

Before reading 2 a Copper. It’s now very valuable because world prices have increased. b Lines of cables along the railway tracks. c Delays to thousands of trains every year. 3a2 b4c6d1e3 f5 While reading 1 True sentences are: a, c and e. 2 a What; Leaves on the line and the wrong kind of snow. b How many; 11,000.

c Who; Dyan Crowther. d Why; Because the global copper price fell. e Where; Lympne in Kent. f When; Earlier this year. g How; It uses an invisible liquid to coat the core and create a forensic fingerprint. After reading 1 a created; established b are publicly asking for c quickly resell it to another person d violently pulling out e increased; improved f begun to return to 2 a ripped out b are calling for c will head back d set up e picked up f sell on