The fear factor: Counselling on offer as London attempts its return to normality

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Four days ago London was a city under attack. Dozens lay dead, many more terribly injured. The transport system was paralysed. Financial markets were in turmoil and millions of workers were wondering what lay ahead for the capital as they trudged home.

Today, Londoners are expected to send a message to their attackers by carrying on as normal. They will cram back into Tube trains and buses and return to work. London First, which represents 300 of the capital's biggest employers, said many companies were offering bus and shuttle services to employees. Staff were also going to be offered counselling to help them get over Thursday's attacks.

Among those returning will be Rob Raimes, 44, a lawyer from Finsbury Park, who was caught up in Thursday's events. He was in the front carriage of the Piccadilly line train and spent two hours on the platform helping the injured.

Yesterday he spent the day watching England play cricket against Australia at Lord's. Today, as normal, he will make the journey into central London to work.

"The mood in the country is not one of aggression but of quiet defiance, " he said. "Most people that I have spoken to are measured in their response. They don't want to over-respond. But they haven't been cowed. "

Such strong sentiments are clearly shared by many people who live and work in the capital. Yesterday, in a timely coincidence, the capital was roused by celebrations on Horse Guards Parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. The Queen, members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister and government figures witnessed a nostalgic display of patriotism. In a speech to the 12,000-strong crowd, the Queen paid tribute to the "resilience, humour and sustained courage" of Londoners.

The ceremony came as police gave a likely final death toll of around 49. They said all visible bodies had been removed from the four blast sites although rescue workers were continuing to search under a Tube train between King's Cross and Russell Square to see if any had been missed. It had been feared the number of victims may eventually exceed 70 but detectives said that was highly unlikely.

Today, commuters will encounter an unprecedented police presence today as authorities seek to reassure the public they are safe, and to prevent outbreaks of panic. Andy Trotter, Deputy Chief Constable of British Transport Police, said: "London is open for business. We are encouraging everyone to get back to work and to get back into the capital. We believe that with all the efforts of everyone involved, including Londoners, we can defeat the terrorists. By not coming to work, by London not being open for business, they will win and they are not going to win."

Business leaders are outwardly confident that such a spirit will shine through among London's 3.9 million workers. More than 1.5 million working days have been lost in London since Thursday, with many hundreds of thousands of people taking Friday off.

It is estimated that the attacks have cost the capital £264m in lost productivity; the long-term impact of the damage to the Tube and the knock-on effects to tourism and the retail trade is expected to cost billions more. Shops in central London were reporting sales 50 per cent down over the weekend.

The London Chamber of Commerce is predicting a near-universal return to work today, with many businesses having continued to operate throughout. A spokesman said most companies had disaster plans drawn up ahead of the attack and had learnt the lessons of 11 September when half of the New York businesses that shut after the attacks never reopened. "London will be hitting the ground running," he said.

Workers are expected to make 700,000 peak-time Tube and bus journeys an hour at peak travel times. Transport for London said it was confident it could cope with demand. But it expected passenger numbers would be lower than on a normal Monday. "As the days go on we anticipate that Londoners will return to using the Tube in the same numbers as they did before," a TfL spokesman said.