This makes me cry. I started watching thinking it would purely about the tube and the bombings and I’m generally OK thinking about that stuff. I wasn’t quite prepared for the stuff at the start. It begins in Hyde Park with the Live8 concert and the desire to make life a little easier for the poorest of the world. Then it moves to Trafalgar Square on the 6th July with the announcement that London had won the 2012 Olympics. I remember working in a TfL office at the time and we all gathered around to listen to the radio to hear the result. We had access to the CCTV cameras and we could watch the people in Trafalgar Square as they heard the announcement live.
We already knew the result by the time it came on the radio. The slight delay between the announcement and the radio broadcast was worn away for us. We could see the delight on the faces of the people in the street. We could see the eruption of joy and dancing in the square. There was a huge cheer in the office which was a tiny echo of what was going on outside.
We continued to watch the cameras over the next weeks and months. I hadn’t yet gone to work on July 7th and after hearing there were problems with transport I called my boss to say I’d be in late. We talked about what we’d each heard and realised that this couldn’t just be power surges. Which, by the way, was an entirely reasonable assumption at the time. There’d been power surges the week before and the intial symptoms as experienced by Control Room staff were identical. It was only when the media started talking about a bus that I realised this was something very, very different.
It’s hard watching stuff from the cameras. Not by any means as hard as it must have been to be living and working through it. But every day we could see police scrambling to respond to calls at different locations and were powerless to do more than watch from afar. Every time there was a minor incident at a station the place would be swamped with police, fire and ambulance. I watched parts of London empty due to accidental activation of fire alarms in stations. All you could see was flashing blue lights and hi visibility jackets. The people vanished into the back streets for safety. And of course, on Thursdays nobody travelled.
Over time things calmed down a little. It got to the point that unless six or seven emergency vehicles went by we’d not bother to check. Things got back to normal. But the the anxiety and frustration of having to passively watch stayed with me. A few months later there was an internal job ad for volunteers for the Incident Care Team. I applied and have been member since before I was driving trains.
For those who don’t know. The ICT is there to provide humanitarian assistance during a major incident. If there’s another bombing, a derailment, a fire, a bus crash or anything which involves TfL’s customers then there’s likely to be a small group of staff offering help to those involved. We’re all volunteers and we come from across TfL station staff, office staff, bus drivers…I haven’t done very much as a volunteer. I’ve been in attendance at the affected stations during some of the memorial events. The reality is that as a driver I’m one of the last people who are going to be called upon to do something if there’s an incident. And of course, I’m quite glad that I’ve not been in attendance much because that means that there’s no trouble.
For the most part, as a driver, I don’t think about the risk of violence. It’s just one of those background things that we tend not to think about terribly much. I occasionally get worried by the behaviour of the passengers but I’m aware that mostly I worry about nothing. Shortly after the bombings I was talking with a friend whose father was in the army. He told me that it would be the easiest thing in the world to get on a train, wait til the doors are closing and trigger a 30 second fuse before leaping off. Soon after that I decided I wanted to drive trains for a living and unfortunately that idea has stayed with me. So if you are the type to sit daydreaming on a train which is held on a platform and only as the doors are closing do you suddenly realise this is your stop and you have to leap off at the last minute don’t be surprised if you can feel my glares radiating down the platform towards you. So I drive on and consider exactly what I’m going to do first if it turns out that you are indeed a mass murderer. Let’s just say it unnerves me a little. But only a little.
Tomorrow I’ll be on duty like hundreds of other staff. I’ll be travelling like millions of other customers. We’ll all be going about our business just as we should. Because that’s how you can tell that we are the winners. Not by looking at the highs and lows but by looking at the long aftermath, when life goes on as normal