A Year after London Bombings, Union Chief Says Tube Security a Confused Mess

The biggest rail workers' union yesterday described security on London Underground as a 'confused mess' on the eve of the anniversary of the terrorist bombings.

The Rail Maritime & Transport Union said urgent action was needed to put in place 'clear and unequivocal' security systems.

'Believe it or not London Underground has classified King's Cross as a low-risk station and the other two stations bombed a year ago - Edgware Road and Liverpool Street - as medium-risk simply because of the fare zones they are in,' said general secretary Bob Crow.

'Almost everyone except London Underground seems to agree that transport systems remain under a high level of threat and we believe that the entire Tube network should be regarded as high risk.'

The union also renewed its call to the Government not to go ahead with 'unbelievable plans' covering fire safety rules on the Tube put in place after the 1987 King's Cross fire.

It also claimed that 'confused and contradictory' statements were made about whether to close the Tube station during a terrorist alert a few weeks after the bombings last year.

'In the event of a similar future emergency we believe the only sensible course is to evacuate the network until it is cleared as safe to operate,' said Mr Crow.

The union has repeated its call for breathing apparatus to be made available to front-line Tube staff and for a second qualified member of staff on trains.

Mr Crow added, 'It is unacceptable that we are still asking for these measures a year on.'

A Transport for London spokesman said, 'London Underground already takes a risk- based approach to managing the fire risk at Tube stations and therefore the proposed changes to the fire regulations will not alter staff numbers or reduce safety.

'The emergency services are trained to respond to the full range of threats and have the necessary specialist equipment.

'London Underground has a radio system on all lines and trains that enables line control staff to communicate with all drivers and station staff.'

The spokesman said a new pounds 2bn communications network for the Tube was being rolled out across the system.

The TfL spokesman added the union's claims about station security risks were incorrect. King's Cross and Liverpool Street stations are on London Underground's highest security category.

<<Western Mail -- 07/10/06>>