Blue light for Tube emergency teams


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The Independent Online

Emergency teams rushing to incidents on the Tube are to travel under the same blue-light-and-siren system as police, ambulance and fire services, it was announced today.

It is hoped that the "blue light" conditions, shown off in London today, will mean a halving of response times to incidents such as broken-down trains and track suicides.

Under a trial announced today, three new Transport for London emergency response unit vehicles with British Transport Police (BTP) livery driven by a BTP officer will travel under blue light conditions when appropriate.

The unit has more than 100 staff and this number will increase to more than 130 by the time of the Olympics this summer.

London Underground managing director Mike Brown said: "Having the capability to travel with blue lights and sirens will mean that the specialist engineers of our emergency response unit can cut through heavy traffic and respond to incidents more quickly and so restore services more swiftly for our customers."

The question of blue lights for the Tube emergency units was raised at the inquest into the deaths of victims of the July 2005 terrorist attacks on London's transport system.

A response unit sent to the bombing at Edgware Road Tube station did not arrive for "many hours", the hearing was told.

At the inquest, which concluded last year, Geoff Dunmore, London Underground's operational security manager, said: "We did actually lobby the Government to obtain blue light status for the emergency response unit.

"Unfortunately this wasn't followed through, in terms of not (being) allowed by the Government - and in fact it was left to Acpo (the Association of Chief Police Officers) to make a decision on it."

Speaking today, Clifford Tibber, a solicitor representing some of the families bereaved by the July 2005 attacks, said: "Today's initiative is to be welcomed but there is still some way to go to make the Underground as safe as possible."

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "The use of blue lights to get emergency services on the scene as quickly and safely as possible is vital in helping them to protect the public. The police and other emergency service drivers are trained for this type of driving and the use of blue lights is strictly controlled to minimise risk to the public.

"This partnership between the British Transport Police and London Underground is a welcome move and will help to address emergencies on the Underground more quickly.

"The Department is planning to consult later this year about changes to the regulations for emergency response driving, including about the training and the organisations covered."