Two other men were also given a total of 21 months suspended sentences for their involvement.
John Burtenshaw, Terence Doherty, Neil Jones, Stuart Amphlett, Nicky Halloran, Paul Tandon and Roy Skinner were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday.
The court heard the gang stole materials during maintenance and upgrade work being carried out by Network Rail on the West Coast Mainline in and around Rugby.
Terry Doherty, a co-director of BRP (Rugby) Ltd – subcontracted by Jarvis to remove rail – conspired with Jarvis plant manager John Burtenshaw to steal rail and sleepers which should have been taken to authorised recyclers.
Doherty also conspired with Stuart Amphlett to steal rail from the Manchester Metrolink project.
A lengthy investigation carried out by British Transport Police revealed Doherty and Burtenshaw used their position, and others within the rail sub-contract industry, to steal up to 3,500 tonnes of rail worth up to £1.5m.
The actions of the group first came to the police’s attention in August 2008 when a scrap dealer check in Staffordshire revealed 208 tonnes of rail which was identified as having been removed from the Rugby upgrade project.
Police officers followed evidence trails which implicated Jones and Tandon (supervisors with Vital, but subcontracted to Jarvis), Halloran (a scrap metal recycler) and Amphlett, (a logistics manager with Carillion).
Detective Sergeant Chris Hearn said: “Using various techniques we were able to track the movement of some of the stolen rail to scrap dealers in Birmingham, Bedfordshire and Liverpool.
“Enquiries at these dealers revealed more than 500 tonnes of rail had been moved by the conspirators who were paid more than £71,500.
“Further investigation revealed a total of 3,500 tonnes of rail and other metal equipment from the Rugby project was unaccounted for, with a potential value of almost £1.5million.
“There is no doubt that the actions of this organised group deprived Network Rail and, in turn rail users across the country, of valuable finance which could have been put towards maintenance and improvements.
“This case clearly shows just how damaging metal theft is to communities and, particularly, to the rail industry. But it also demonstrates just how determined BTP is to tackle those who perceive the railway to be a soft target.”
Neil Henry, Network Rail’s head of operations and performance, said: “The value of the material stolen is wasted money as far as Network Rail is concerned. That’s £1.5m that could otherwise have been spent on additional passenger facilities at stations or perhaps invested in technology to improve reliability of the railway.
“I hope the sentences today make others stop and think before they consider stealing vital equipment from the railway.
“I also welcome the news of a thorough reform of the laws governing scrap metal dealers. Metal thieves directly cost the railway around £19million each year, with the knock on costs and disruption to the economy around the same amount again.
“Network Rail has taken extensive measures to protect our railway but we are simply managing to stem the tide. Reform that effectively takes away the illegal market in scrap metal, which includes an effective licensing regime and adequate power to police and magistrates, is sorely needed to help stamp out the misery caused by these thieves.”