Volume 2: Views and information from organisations




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Peter Hulme Cross (AM): Was the information displayed on it constantly updated and accurate?

Dick Fedorcio (Director of Public Affairs, Metropolitan Police Service): It was updated 27 times during the day and it reflected the information that we were providing to the media, so it was common.

Alex Robertson (Chief Superintendent, City of London Police): Certainly the CLP also ran their website, and that received 225,000 hits on the day as well. It was also constantly updated under a procedure that we started operating when we had the major May Day demonstrations, where we constantly updated the community and told them beforehand that they could seek information there on the movement of the demonstration. Subsequently, they remembered that and came back to our website on the day. It was constantly updated and provided messages which prevented people from overloading any phone systems or emergency systems.

Richard Barnes (Chair): Does the LAS have a website up and running?

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): We do indeed have a website. It does not receive the numbers of hits that our colleague organisations do, but we saw a quadrupling of the number of hits on the website on that day. It was regularly updated with new information as it became available.

Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade):

We also have a website and that was updated on the day. I understand we did receive an increased number of hits, but we certainly did not get the number of hits that the police did.

Richard Barnes (Chair): If I can move us on a little bit, initially the Strategic Coordination Centre (SCC) was at New Scotland Yard, and then moved to Hendon. What were the implications of that move?

Alan Brown (Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): Let me just add a point of accuracy. With a major incident, the Command and Control protocol are that there will be a Gold Commander appointed. In the initial stages that is certainly exactly what did happen and Commander Allison was appointed as the Gold Commander. In a catastrophic event, then the SCC based at Hendon would be opened, and that is what happened within this event. Although it was never formally categorised as a catastrophic event, with the four major incidents coming together it was treated as such because the level of co-ordination was such, that it was felt it needed a higher level than perhaps was being achieved more tactically. The consequence of that is that people were taken out of central London, and required to report to the centre at Hendon.

The necessity for the SCC probably lasted for 36 hours. Once the situation had stabilised, we collapsed it back down to what would be the normal major incident protocols, which effectively is what happened. From feedback that we have had subsequently, I think colleagues felt that there were downsides to moving people out of central London. Certainly, one of the learning lessons that we are actively exploring is finding another location for a SCC which would save people being abstracted from central London. We are actively looking for a base in central London in the event of a catastrophic incident that could be used as a command centre, or SCC.

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Richard Barnes (Chair): The implication of what you have just said is that Hendon did not work very well.

Alan Brown (Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): No, that is not what I said.

Richard Barnes (Chair): I understand that a number of roads were gridlocked and some people took an extended amount of time to get to Hendon and that there was a separation of Gold Command and what was happening on the ground. Might ‘looking for another’ site imply that things can be improved?

Alan Brown (Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): I think things can be improved, and we have certainly taken the feedback particularly from other agencies that it presented a number of difficulties, particularly for the LAS and LFB to have people so far away from their Gold Command Centres. I sympathise with that, however it was the first time that any SCC had actually been implemented in London. Those are lessons that we have now learnt and we are actively seeking to address. The benefits of Hendon were that it was somewhere already equipped to undertake that role, it had been equipped to fulfil that role some time previously, and it had been exercised pretty recently prior to 7 July. Nevertheless, as you have said, I do not think the full consequences of having people at Hendon so far away from their Gold Command Centres had really been considered. However, now that it has been tried in operation for the first time, I think we are now aware that there are some learning lessons. One of those is that you probably need to have your SCC closer to your Gold Centres than what we actually achieved on 7 July. Although having said that, I was not aware that people were delayed because of gridlock.

Richard Barnes (Chair): One of the local authority Golds took two and half hours to get there.

Alan Brown (Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): Certainly, the emergency services were not delayed, but perhaps they have the benefit of blue lights and two-tones to help remove the gridlock.

Richard Barnes (Chair): The Tube line was down so that was not available.

Alan Brown (Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): No, the Tube line was not much use on this occasion. Nevertheless, I felt that the SCC worked well. It did provide the ability to strategically co-ordinate what, as we have said, was a most testing series of incidents. The fact that it was already wired for the occasion meant that there was good communication with the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR) and good communications available generally. It was really the abstraction of people from the Gold Centres that actually caused the problem. We in the MPS also found that to a certain extent. I think that Chris (Allison) in his role as MPS Gold actually found that being so far away from the people who were working for him was a disadvantage.

Richard Barnes (Chair): What were the problems that you faced?

Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade):

They were much the same as my colleagues have already said. However, I would like to add that I was at the Gold meeting at 10.30am on 7 July when we made the decision to move the SCC to Hendon. It was one that I fully supported at the time, because I think

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in the circumstances we were facing, with the information that we had, it was undoubtedly the right decision. We have practised the SCC at Hendon under a number of exercises and, as Alan (Brown) said, there was a practice there earlier this year, so the facilities at Hendon were perhaps much better than we could have had if we had stayed at New Scotland Yard during that time.

No-one knew exactly what the circumstances were going to be for the next 12 to 24 hours and had there been more attacks than the four we did experience, we would in my view have needed to be at Hendon. I think it was the right decision to take at the time. It did bring a range of inconveniences more than anything else in terms of us being extracted from the centre of London and being away from our Command Centres, but in truth the communication systems worked well from Hendon, and as I said before, they were inconveniences rather than real problems. I think moving to Hendon actually improved our ability to command the LFB because we had more facilities available to us than perhaps we would have had if we been at New Scotland Yard. It was the right decision at the time. As it happens, we were fortunate and there were no further attacks. Therefore, with hindsight, perhaps we could have stayed where we were, but I do think it was the right decision to take at the time.

Richard Barnes (Chair): It is knowing whether it is a Chemical, Biological Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) incident or not, which you did not know in the first instance?

Ron Dobson (Assistant Commissioner, Service Delivery, London Fire Brigade):

It was really not knowing whether or not there were going to be further attacks, or whether or not the facilities available to us in terms of the amount of people we can all bring to support our Gold Commanders at the SCC would be available to us, because we need people to support the Gold Commander and the facilities to support us. I think those facilities were more easily accommodated where we moved to rather than if we had stayed at New Scotland Yard. There was a range of benefits, and whilst obviously there are some dis-benefits and people have raised those already, I think that actually the benefits did outweigh the disadvantages on the day.

Chris Allison (Commander, Metropolitan Police Service): I just want to support what Ron (Dobson) said. As the Chair of the first Gold meeting, it was a universal agreement from everybody at that meeting that it was the right thing to do at the time. We had a series of events that had taken place in London and we did not know how many more might be taking place with all the potential of that. We had practised the idea of putting in place an SCC somewhere else to enable us to ensure that we had effective Command and Control, and it was the right decision at the time and there was no dissenter to it.

Russell Smith (Deputy Director of Operations, London Ambulance Service): I would make the same point. It was a combined decision. We felt it was the right decision. It was 40 minutes since the last bomb had gone off and we had every reason to expect more and New Scotland Yard was not the best place to be commanding these major incidents.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I am assuming that if the nature of the terrorist attack had been different, then to have a Command Centre outside the central zone would have been desirable in any event?

Alan Brown (Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): Presumably, you are referring to if there had been a chemical or a biological aspect to the attack. I

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am informed that actually Hendon has some peculiar meteorological advantages where the common wind flows would suggest that it is a safer place than central London. Nevertheless, I think the learning that we have had is that it is such a big dislocation that perhaps unless there are chemical considerations I think we were probably in the wrong place, and although it did have some advantages, the disadvantages were inconveniences. When it was felt that we could manage the incidents with greater clarity as to what the incidents were and their implications and how they should be managed, we did return to New Scotland Yard and actually collapsed that level of strategic co-ordination.

Richard Barnes (Chair): Can I move us on to the bus service and the decisions about its withdrawal and then its reinstatement? I am assuming that it was Peter Hendy who was responsible for the withdrawal of service.

Peter Hendy (Managing Director, Surface Transport, TfL): I am responsible for everything to do with the bus service, but as with the other public services, we have a good, tried-and-tested Control and Command system. In fact, the decision to withdraw from central London was taken by the duty manager in Centrecomm just after 10am. Centrecomm is London Buses’ control centre, and it is co-located with MetroComm, which is the control centre for the MPS Traffic and Transport branch. They are in the same room.

They obviously told me and by then we understood the circumstances, which we had heard almost immediately after the bomb on the number 30 had exploded that it had happened, from I think a driver on the bus behind on the bus radio. In any case, by then it was becoming increasingly difficult to envisage that you could run any sort of normal bus service because, as I have previously said to you, virtually the whole of the inner ring road was closed from Paddington to Aldgate and that is quite a large area of the city where the bus service had become severely disrupted.

At that stage, very reasonably the police could offer us no reassurance as to what else might be going on. I think they took the right decision because, if for no other reason, there would have been really severe dislocation of the bus service had we let it continue in a disorganised style in central London because of the road closures that were then taking place. That was the way in which that decision was taken.

Restoring the service was given more forethought. By 11.30am or 11.45am, my mind at least, and I think our collective minds at TfL and indeed the minds at the top of the MPS, were beginning to exercise themselves about how we would cope in the evening. It had become clear that the Underground was not going to open again that day. We had collectively in the transport services brought several million people into central London and it seemed entirely reasonable to start to exercise one’s mind about how they might get home. What I can tell you from our experience is that if you want to wind something up to happen, even with a service which is as dispersed in control terms as the bus service, you need a couple or two and half hours to make anything work. I knew that we had to decide what to do by about 2pm or 3pm, otherwise we would never have got the buses back running in time to do anything.

We were able to take that decision. The (TfL) Commissioner (Bob Kiley) spoke to the MPS Commissioner (Sir Ian Blair) some time shortly after 1pm. We made all the arrangements and when Tim (O’Toole) and I went to the press conference with the other emergency services at 3pm, I was able to say that the bus service was being restored. When it was restored, it came back over the next two to two and half hours.

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Clearly, it did not come back in all the places where you would normally expect it to because anything trying to penetrate central London from the north actually found it quite difficult to do so. Nevertheless, we got enough back to shoulder an extended peak.

We also managed to get quite a lot of revenue staff, who were not checking tickets obviously, and bus station staff, and the police were phenomenally helpful in making the Transport Operational Command Unit (TOCU) and other people available to help people in the evening peak, and that is how we got it back.

Richard Barnes (Chair): Did COBR have any role in that final decision-making about reinstating the bus service?

Peter Hendy (Managing Director, Surface Transport, TfL): We had a discussion with Government about whether it was the appropriate thing to do, but in the end it was us who took the decision.

Richard Barnes (Chair): It was you that made the decision?

Peter Hendy (Managing Director, Surface Transport, TfL): Yes.

Richard Barnes (Chair): The decision was not delayed or hampered by interested politicians when it should perhaps be an operational decision?

Peter Hendy (Managing Director, Surface Transport, TfL): I think those decisions always have to be operational because, apart from anything else, the bus service is not - I think it is Tim’s (O’Toole) description about how the LUL is controlled - a hierarchical one. In my case, the bus service is like an organism: it is run from 90 places by 16 different contractors, and you have to make an operational assessment about what needs to be done and who you need to tell. It is quite an involved process.

I was satisfied, as one should be, that a conversation between the MPS Commissioner (Sir Ian Blair) and our Commissioner (Bob Kiley) acceding to a suggestion of mine that it was safe to restore it was good enough to let that happen.

Richard Barnes (Chair): How did you communicate with the bus drivers and the people that work for you during the day, because a colleague of theirs clearly had been traumatised and the explosion on the bus was the most visible form of the attack on 7 July?

Peter Hendy (Managing Director, Surface Transport, TfL): Alan (Brown) has already remarked on the way in which the TV news providers are very early on these scenes. Of course, there is no message to our employees, in our case through the contractors and other people’s employees, that can equal what people see on the television screens.

Regarding your direct point, we have a bus radio system that is rather old. It is being replaced and we have let a contract for it to be replaced. It worked as well as it normally does through 7 July and that enabled Centrecomm to speak directly to every vehicle in London. Those messages necessarily have to be fairly brief, and it was by those means that, for example, first of all we told bus drivers to take Underground ticket-holders just after 9am, that we suspended fare collection at 9.45am and then that we withdrew from the central area.

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