Terrorism and the London Underground


At circa 10.45am on Monday I was just about to board a North bound Northern Line train from Tottenham Court Road, when the driver of the train advised the station was being evacuated and everyone on the train had to leave it. A booming voiceover started, declaring something along the lines of: “This station is being evacuated. Please leave the station immediately”. I would not say panic ensued, but some people were running or crying and I would describe most as being visibly apprehensive. As we slowly climbed the escalators to the ticket hall, none of us had any idea what we would find.

Thankfully, this was no attack and the evacuation must have been a false alarm. However had there been, it occurs to me that this episode exposes a quite obvious flaw in London Underground’s evacuation procedures. Had a Paris-style gun attack been underway, and it is very likely that once the station evacuation command has been given the drivers of the trains will have little insight into what was happening at street level, it is surely mistaken to demand passengers to leave trains that have just arrived, or are about to leave, a platform. Any of the persons being asked to leave the train could be walking into a massacre, or be faced with persons armed with explosives.

It would be much more sensible if Tube drivers are trained to immediately leave a station (or not stop at all) and at the very least hold the train mid-way through a section of a tunnel. Ideally, this would be out of sight of the platform. Of course, were a station subject to an attack or hostage situation, it would be even better if a train was encouraged to save as many persons as possible before closing the doors and removing them from the scene as quickly as the train will allow.

Oliver Lewis, London

Evening Standard, 17 December 2015