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Richard Barnes (Chair): Thank you all very much indeed. We will move into questions now. The timelines have indicated that the bombs went off at 8.50am at Liverpool Street, 8.51am at Edgware Road, and 8.53am at King’s Cross. The first that Londoners at large learnt was the announcement that there was a power surge. A number of myths have flown around about what the power surge meant, one of them that this was a code word for the emergency services to get into action, which I am sure we can nail now. Can you not tell the difference between a power surge and an explosion?
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): The first manifestation of an incident was simply that there was no traction current there and there had been an activation of the tunnel telephones in the Piccadilly Line tunnel. ‘Power surge’ is perhaps not a correct engineering term, but it was shorthand for a problem with the power system or traction current system. It was chosen because there was an assumption, since there were reports of loud bangs, that there had to have been a power surge that was part of what happened resulting in these loud bangs. A 22kV (kilovolt) cable letting loose, or a very large circuit breaker firing can produce a loud bang. That is simply why at that moment that term was chosen by the Network Control Centre. Soon thereafter, as those further calls came in there was an appreciation that something else had happened, however that description was still apt for the circumstances we were confronting. We did not have power on the north side of the Circle Line and we needed to move people off the network.
Richard Barnes (Chair): I understand that the first call that went to the LFB was from a member of the public outside Edgware Road, who heard the bang, saw the smoke and dialled ‘999’. Is there no internal communications system between drivers or station staff to the control centre that tells them that there has been an explosion or catastrophic event?
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): There are systems with radios and telephones; those are the practicalities of how people communicate. However, you will understand that sitting in Broadway at 8.52am you are virtually blind and you are confused for a while as these multiple reports come in. It would be over-egging our own capabilities to pretend that we have instantaneous appreciation of what is happening. We do not, and the reports that come in conflict with one another.
The staff that you rely on on-site to make reports back to you obviously are dealing first with the crisis itself. They are dealing with the fact that some people are running into the tunnels to address the people coming out, to find out what is going on and to gather facts before they make a report. At the same time, they are dealing with the public who still want to come into the system. It is remarkable how complex the management of that scene can become and how difficult it is to get information out. We had some of our staff members who actually had to go through some very difficult circumstances with members of the public who just wanted to get on trains and get to work and could not understand why they could not.
In the midst of this confusion in the early minutes, naturally you do not get every bit of information you would like. However, I think the impressive thing about the timeline is how quickly the information came around, if you think about it. These incidents occurred at 8.51am; before 9.00am the emergency services and ambulances are on their way, by 9.02am we get a confirmation call that the LAS was headed there, and by 9.15am we have made a decision, that is not made very lightly, or ever before, to empty the entire system, which is itself a somewhat dangerous thing to do. I think the
sequence of communications was amazing, considering the confusion we faced and the unprecedented nature of the incident.
Sally Hamwee (Deputy Chair): I should imagine, Tim (O’Toole), that the responses immediately might have to be pretty similar whatever the cause of the incident. In deciding whether to evacuate the whole of the system, is there communication between LUL and the police? Is there information, or at least testing, of whether it is a wise thing to do, in case it is a terrorist incident or possibly something else? I am interested to know who feeds in at what point. You told us about the communication with London Buses.
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): Actually, we would not make that decision without conferring with the police, and we conferred with the BTP. To illustrate this point, I would contrast what happened on 7 July with what happened on 21 July. Because of the information and intelligence that the police had, and because of the copy-cat nature of the attack and that no-one was injured, the decision made was based on the advice of the police that the network should continue to run, which was plainly the correct decision at that time. We would never, simply on our own, make the decision to expose the public to that risk without consultation with the emergency services.
Joanne McCartney (AM): Can you clarify whether you were aware at 9.15am when you took the decision to evacuate the system, that these were explosions that you were dealing with as opposed to power surges? When was the exact moment you became aware, or the police were aware, that it was an explosives incident?
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): We were aware that there were explosions and that this was something well beyond what we had experienced two years earlier when we did lose a bulk supply point and had to deal with the loss of power from the National Grid, as you will recall. We knew there were explosions. We did not spend a great deal of time, I have to say, framing the description of exactly what had happened and who was involved, but we knew that this was off the charts and that it was most likely the worst nightmare of a terrorist incident.
Richard Barnes (Chair): When was the information first released to the media and what type of message were you giving to them?
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): I will defer to Paul Mylrea to give you the exact time and what was said to the media, but, as I said, we changed our message from a power surge to a network emergency, as just a ‘catch-all’, at around 9.20am on our system. At that time also, we were aware that the actual framing of the public message would fall to the MPS.
Richard Barnes (Chair): At what point does that happen? Is there a trigger mechanism that moves it over to the MPS?
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): Gold Control is set up and as that comes together they then assume control. The beauty of all the drills and indeed the performance of the employees is that each mode, as well as each member of the staff, because of the training and the drills is largely self-directed. Management cannot intervene fast enough to deal with a situation such as this. It is really the people on the ground who know what to do and follow their training. Similarly, the police rely
on us to do the right things in those early moments until Gold Control is set up, and that is what happened in this incident.
Richard Barnes (Chair): When Gold Control is set up, I assume that the MPS takes over the role of the messenger. Can we turn to the MPS to get an answer?
Alan Brown (Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): The circumstances of 7 July were that Gold was established under Commander (Chris) Allison initially. His role was obviously to ensure that the police response was right, but also that the response of the other agencies was co-ordinated. The lead for the relationship with the media did pass to the MPS at that time and I think it was at 9.10am that it was first confirmed that there were possible explosions, or there was an explosion, and by 9.12am that had started to be disseminated by our Director of Public Affairs (Dick Fedorcio). I do not know if he would like to comment on that?
Dick Fedorcio (Director of Public Affairs, Metropolitan Police Service): The system we have in place which was developed with London Resilience following 9/11 is a mechanism by which all the likely partners in such an incident initially will talk to another. That was activated by us at 9.12am, and is called the First Alert System. Through that we arrange a fairly speedy conference call with all the players to make sure everyone is at the same level of information and also to agree when we will meet as a matter of urgency, and also to agree the first holding statement. After 9.12am, the conference call took place at 9.25am and around that time the first statement from the MPS was issued which at that time said that ‘At approximately 8.50am, we were called to assist with an incident on the Underground system. All emergency services are on the scene, there have been some casualties and this has been declared a major incident and we will bring you more information as and when we have it.’
Richard Barnes (Chair): At 9.20am the MPS also issued a release which said there were incidents at Edgware Road, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, Russell Square, Aldgate East and Moorgate, I understand. This seemed to be quite an escalation of where the actual events were. Is this a confusion between King’s Cross and Russell Square and between other places, or what?
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): The reason that was happening was because people were coming out at all those stations. No-one knew exactly where the incident was, so the initial reports were very confused. People thought there were far more than the three explosions because you had injured people and obviously they can go in different directions in the tunnels, and that is what created that confusion.
Richard Barnes (Chair): At what point were the LFB and the LAS called in? Shall we go to the LFB first?
Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade):
As we have already said, there were discussions going on between the various control rooms of the emergency services and LUL at a very early stage during the incidents. Our press office was in contact via the system that Dick (Fedorcio) has already explained in terms of the first alert, so we were aware of what was going on and were attending the three scenes. At 10.30am I attended the first Gold meeting at New Scotland Yard where all of the information was pulled together. The press coordination was going on at the same time via the systems that had been put in place over the last few years.
We were well aware of what information was available, but information was coming back from the scenes from our incident commanders as well, and our press office was very much in contact with the press office particularly of the MPS. This meant that any messages that were going out were going out from the MPS, and also that we did not do anything that was in conflict with those messages, because it is very important that any media or public information that goes out is well co-ordinated. We were certainly part of all that right from the start.
Richard Barnes (Chair): Initially, you responded to three separate incidents, I would assume.
Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade):
Yes, the same thing, as Tim (O’Toole) has already explained. We initially attended three sites at the three stations, but we also sent attendances to other stations like Russell Square because there were people coming out at those stations. It was very important that we had an attendance there because at that moment we did not know exactly where the incident was and we needed to be at all the locations where there was potentially an incident so we would be dealing with the public and making an effective response. As more information came back about where the incidents actually were, we were having to focus down our attendance to the right place to make sure we could make our response as effective as we did.
Richard Barnes (Chair): Was that with Fire Rescue Units (FRUs), as I believe you call them?
Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade): We had normal fire appliances and FRUs in attendance at all scenes.
Peter Hulme Cross (AM): I just want to clarify how the communication between LUL staff – the drivers, the people on the trains and so on – and the control room actually happened. Were they in radio contact?
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): I believe how the communication system works for all the trains on the sub-surface lines is that they have radios that speak to their line controllers. There is a line control office for each line. Those line controllers communicate with the Network Operations Centre. That is the daisy chain.
Those radio systems were not the way we got information because the leaky feeder cable, in essence the antenna, was hit by the explosion. In addition, the radio systems, which are quite antiquated, especially on the sub-surface lines, can sometimes fail us. In fact, that is why following 7 July we have changed our procedures whereby we no longer rely on the operational work-arounds that we have used in the past on subsurface lines when we have radio problems, and we simply take trains out of service and do not provide service on lines if there are any interruptions to radio. The way we obtained information was from station staff running down to the sites and then using their radios to call in directly to the operations centre that something was wrong.
Peter Hulme Cross (AM): Are there further improvements that you can envisage to this?
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): Yes. One of the Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) that we inherited, the CONNECT PFI, will install a new radio
system, a Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) based radio system. The same technology has been brought in by the MPS on their Airwave system. We believe that this will finally come on-line and start to be introduced over the course of the next year. The advantage of a system like that, since it is double-end fed and messages can go in any direction, is that even in the event of an explosion and the severing of a cable a signal could still get out going in the other direction, so you are not cut off. That will be a step-change, not only to our ability to deal with emergencies but also to our ability to run the railway much more efficiently because we will be able to get information around much faster. That is a system that is at least two years late, and should have been installed before.
Peter Hulme Cross (AM): Therefore, communication in the tunnels is still problematic?
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): It still relies on very old radio technology that has to be nursed along.
Joanne McCartney (AM): I want to talk a bit about the passengers who were trapped on the Underground trains. We have had reports that drivers were able to use the train tannoy to get information out, so I take it that the internal Tube tannoy system works irrespective of power surges, is that right?
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): Yes, in this case it did. The battery systems were able to continue to power that, but it all depends on what the nature of the problem is whether or not that will be interfered with. I think the behaviour of those drivers that day was just remarkable the way they were able to create calm. I know it was a terrible, terrible period for people who were stuck on those trains, some of them for a very long time, because what was happening was that as the station staff went in they were dealing with people coming off. They were in there within two minutes, but just working their way down the tunnel, processing all those people and it took quite a long time to get to the final carriages.
Sally Hamwee (Deputy Chair): As you say, people were stuck there for a long time, and we have read some very affecting accounts by, among others, some of the passengers who were caught up in it although not injured. Communication was needed both for the people on the trains immediately affected and throughout the system. How do you communicate with passengers who are deaf and also non-English speaking passengers? While perhaps in the rush hour the bulk of people might be English-speaking – and I am not suggesting that disabled people would not be among them – one can see that the scope for real confusion and difficulty among some groups of passengers would be quite considerable.
Tim O’Toole (Managing Director, London Underground): Yes, I imagine so. Part of the rebuilding of LUL has to result in our delivery of additional communication services for people who have hearing or visual issues. You will note that on the more modern fleets there are visual displays that can give people information, and we will have those on all trains eventually as the rebuilding takes place. Similarly, things like induction loops and more visual displays in stations are what we get out of the rebuilding of the various stations.
We do not do very much broadcast of information in other languages especially at times of emergency. In fact, for purposes of just everyday provision of service, we have done
a lot of surveys of visitors from foreign countries about the appetite for the delivery of information in other languages, and we actually find it is fairly low.
Richard Barnes (Chair): One of the things I just want to get very clear for us is about when it was decided to make clear to the media that this was not a power surge but a series of bombs that had gone off on the Underground. When was that decision made to go to the media and who made it?
Paul Mylrea (Director of Media Relations, Transport for London): As Dick (Fedorcio) has said, we had the first alert call at 9.12am and we were still getting information in, as were the police, and the decision was taken as part of the Gold Communications Team. As the information came in, it was centralised through the police, through the different emergency services and came out as the first statement given by the police, which I think Dick (Fedorcio) has already given a time for.
Dick Fedorcio (Director of Public Affairs, Metropolitan Police Service): In your previous comments, I think you suggested there was an early release of information of about six or seven sites, which I think you may have said was about 9.20 or 9.40am, which I do not recognise.
Richard Barnes (Chair): 10.20am.
Dick Fedorcio (Director of Public Affairs, Metropolitan Police Service): I think 10.12am was the actual time. Sorry, I was just checking that. At that time, as well as re-stating the earlier message, we were saying it was too early at that stage to state what had happened; there had been further reports in multiple locations and we went through a list that you mentioned, but we said it was too early to be clear about what had caused these explosions. At that stage, we were still not in a position to clarify exactly what had happened, apart from there had been explosions.
Richard Barnes (Chair): When was it clarified?
Dick Fedorcio (Director of Public Affairs, Metropolitan Police Service): My colleagues may help me here, in terms of their knowledge.
Andrew Trotter (QPM, Deputy Chief Constable, British Transport Police): The Commissioner (Sir Ian Blair) spoke at 11.15am. He gave an interview and said there were at least six explosions that day.
Dick Fedorcio (Director of Public Affairs, Metropolitan Police Service): We repeated ‘explosion’, but we still were not clear what had caused it.
Alan Brown (Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): What you have is the reality of these types of events where it just is not clear what the cause is. What you actually try to deal with is getting people to the scenes so you can get reliable information. Yes, there is always a need and determination to try to get that information out, but it is very important that the information that is given out is accurate and does not create a situation that is more difficult than the one you are already confronting. Consequently, whilst it may appear that bombs went off before 9am, and that there was a considerable period of time before the media was formally made aware, I think reflects the chaotic nature of the situation that everybody was confronted with. I would make no apologies for that lag, but I think it is more important that there was accuracy rather than information that may have misled.
Абдурахманов М. И., Баришполец В. А., Манилов В. Л., Пирумов В. С. Геополитика и национальная безопасность. Словарь основных терминов...
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