Journeys made with quiet determination, but tinged with fear

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The accountant, 29, was travelling on the same route as the bus involved in one of Thursday's four failed suicide bombings, where a rucksack placed on a seat at the rear of the upper floor blew out a window.

It was the same bus journey Ms Terry has made every day, twice a day for the past eight years. But as commuters boarded buses and Tubes with newspapers bearing headlines of "Terror gang on the loose", Ms Terry was one of many whose determination to continue as normal was tinged with raw fear.

Shortly after boarding a No 26, with passengers packed onto the lower deck but just a handful upstairs, she said: "After the first bombs two weeks ago I was like everyone else - we have to carry on, we won't be beaten. We still won't be beaten, but now it's scary.

The fear was illustrated by figures showing the number of shoppers in central London on Thursday were down more than a quarter compared with a year ago.

Yesterday, amid the frustrations of an early-morning commute made more complex by station closures, travellers were confronted once more with the paraphernalia of a capital on high alert. Gun-bearing police took up position in front of major rail interchanges to reassure travellers mulling over the narrow failure to inflict atrocities on the capital on the way to their desks.

At Warren Street station, where one of Thursday's bombs failed to detonate, forensic teams weaved past commuters before passing through a police cordon.

Some of those going about their daily business said that, within a fortnight, they had become inured to such sights. Clifford Anderson, 73, who found himself redundant as the flower stall he has run for 23 years remained inside the police line at Warren Street, said: "This is life now. There is nothing much we can do about it. If you have someone holding a firework to throw at you, you can run away. But these new guys, you don't know where they're coming from. They go off like V2 rockets."

Mr Anderson, from Pimlico, central London, said that beneath the much-praised stoicism, some were increasingly torn between their desire to, as one commuter put it, "give the bombers the one-fingered salute" and a nervy sense of self-preservation. The florist said: "I've had people ask me for directions in the past two weeks and when I tell them to go back down the Tube they say, 'no, I've just come from there, I can't handle it any more'."

As news filtered through of yesterday's fatal shooting at Stockwell, both trepidation and defiance were being felt in equal measure. David Adeybola, 36, said: "It's difficult to know how to feel - there is a guilty sense that the police may have tracked one down and given us one less thing to worry about. But then you can't help hearing the little voice that says, what if the other [bombers] are on the platform with me?"

It was a common fear in subterranean London. Sixteen days ago, few would have given Naz Khan a second glance as he made his way to work with his rucksack. Yesterday, his presence was enough to make several of his fellow commuters leave a Victoria line train in panic at 8.20am.

The software consultant, 22 and dressed in a combat jacket, had a bulky orange rucksack with some books and a laptop inside. One woman - sitting directly in front of Mr Khan - closed her book and pushed her way to the doors.

A man and a woman, noticing the young Muslim's appearance, changed their minds and stopped boarding the carriage.

Asked if he had noticed a change in behaviour around him, Mr Khan said: "I thought twice about carrying my rucksack today. But what are you going to do - ban every Asian in Britain from carrying a bag?"

Travellers' tales


Jun Hee Son normally allows 45 minutes to take the Tube from her home in Ealing, west London, to her college close to St Paul's Cathedral. But now the 22-year-old English student will travel by bus. She said: "The bombings which killed so many people were terrible but it felt like they didn't affect us. But after this it feels as if things are more random. I don't want to be underground in an enclosed space."


Philip Hartley was determined to continue his journey as normal yesterday, despite the rash of closed stations and disrupted Tube lines that stood in his way.

The 33-year-old insurance consultant, from Balham, south London, said: "It is a point of honour to make the trip regardless of what the bombers have done. I'll still use the Tube and the bus regardless. I'll sit on the top floor of a double-decker bus - I like the view."