Friday, July 08, 2005

Would you take any notice?

If you spotted a small package under a seat next you on the train, what would you do? Anything?

In theory, sure.

In all honesty, I'm not sure I would push the emergency button. You know, you just bury yourself in your Ipod or book and think it's just something disgarded by a passenger who had left the train. Just a litterbug. Well, he didn't look like Osama.

London tube rider Laurel Wamsley raises this in a Slate article:
Suicide bombers make the task of security and protection that much harder. Security measures in London are regarded as quite good, but they have tended to focus on suspicious packages spotted by alert passengers. Hundreds of closed-circuit TV cameras operate on the London Underground, but even without the added threat of suicide bombers, they cannot look into every nook and cranny on each and every train carriage.

There are constant warnings to the public about abandoned bags and suspicious packages. But on one of the busiest public transport systems in the world, security standards can slip. I was on an Underground train just a few weeks ago that stopped in a station after a passenger told the driver there was an abandoned bag in another carriage. I suggested passengers move away, but people milled around as the driver and passengers poked the holdall. Lu
ckily it contained nothing more dangerous than unwashed gym clothes.

After the Madrid train bombings last year, London's Mayor Ken Livingstone said, "It would be miraculous if, with all the terrorist resources arranged against us, terrorists did not get through, and given that some are prepared to give their own lives, it would be inconceivable that someone does not get through to London."

On Thursday morning his prophesy was realized. For hundreds of dead and injured people commuting into central London, their journey became our worst nightmare.

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