On the No 30, the journey to work will never be the same again

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The Independent Online

Angela Pelzl really wanted to get on the No 72 yesterday. But time was marching on and she was going to be late for work when the No 30 trundled into view at her stop at Highbury and Islington. So she got on.

Exactly 24 hours earlier she had done the same thing, boarding the same service for her office in Bloomsbury. Thankfully for her, she had got off when it became snarled in traffic around King's Cross Thameslink station.

Despite thinking about it all day yesterday, last night and again this morning, she still could not be sure it was her bus that had been blown up a few minutes later on Tavistock Square. Its roof peeled away like a tin can, 13 of its passengers killed and many more horribly maimed.

"The one I saw on the news had a 'Love Coca-Cola' sign on it. I've been trying to remember if mine did but I just don't know if it was my bus. It is such an odd feeling," said graphic designer, 33, as the bus made its way down Pentonville Road, noticeably less full than normal. As usual, the No 30s were arriving at the congestion point of King's Cross in bunches of twos and threes. Normally, that is just a source of irritation to the passengers. On Thursday, which No 30 you took became a deadly lottery. Life and death separated by a few seconds, dictated by the capricious London traffic.

Friday's No 30 started its journey that morning at 8.45am, three miles across town at Hackney Wick. It was due to take one hour and two minutes to reach the scene of Thursday's explosion, arriving at 9.47am.

George Psaradakis, 49, who was driving the No 30 on Thursday, said his first thoughts were for his passengers. Mr Psaradakis, who has worked for Stagecoach for three years, said: "Suddenly there was a bang, then carnage. Everything seemed to happen behind me.

"I tried to help the poor people, there were many injured and at first I thought, 'how am I alive when everyone is dying around me?' I am pleased that many people in London are still getting the bus, despite what has happened.

"Myself and the other drivers in London have an important job and we are going to continue to do that as best we can. We are going to continue our lives. We are not going to be intimidated."

With no Tube, buses are the lifeline of this corner of east London where two-thirds of households get by on less than £10,000 a year and a third of people come from ethnic minorities. On Thursday morning, hopes had been high that the benefits of the Olympic billions earmarked for neighbouring Stratford might filter through to them. Yesterday, the only topic on any one's mind was the bombing.

Children from Morningside School joined the bus on Cassland Road. As it approached Mare Street, Derek Allen, a pensioner, got on board. He was in no doubt what lay at the root of the terrorist attack - Iraq. "If I slapped you round the face - are you going to just walk away?" Mr Allen was joining friends on the way to a conference at the Institute of Education. The guest speaker was George Galloway - who had angered right-wing newspapers the previous day by suggesting London was paying the price for Tony Blair's foreign policy.

Matthew Cookson, 29, was also on his way to the conference. "Who has put us in danger? It is George Bush and Tony Blair and their policies that have caused devastation around the world. Because of them, this type of thing is happening every day in Baghdad. The way to get us out of danger is to get the troops out of Iraq, just like the Spanish did after Madrid."

Sitting downstairs at the back as the bus crawled along Balls Pond Road was Claire Hicks, 38. The accountant makes the journey westward every day to Marble Arch. She had just missed the bus targeted by the terrorists, watching it drive off without her. "I thank my lucky stars. But now we have to get back to normal. I will deal with the fear. I will look out for any strange packages, take notice of who gets on. But you can't judge people by their appearance. That is unfair to the ones that are innocent and that is the vast majority of people," she said.

The bus arrived in Islington's trendy Upper Street and the young professionals began to clamber aboard. It was 9.15am. Katie Wilkinson and Caroline Dearnley, both professional musicians, were on their way to a recording. It was a case of "there but for the grace of God," they agreed. "We should get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, not because of this but because we shouldn't be there in the first place," said Ms Wilkinson.

Inching around the King's Cross junction, the flags on the railway station were at half-mast. Yesterday at this time, people were dying in the tunnels below. Now the place was ablaze with the lights of television crews. Past Sir George Gilbert Scott's St Pancras, past the new British Library, past Camden Town Hall and past the caryatid porch of St Pancras Church where a memorial service will be held on Sunday.

But it would not be detouring into Woburn Place and Tavistock Square. There the shell of yesterday's No 30 was masked behind a tarpaulin, forensic teams at work on the wreckage.

TRAINS

Almost all mainline train services are expected to be back to normal today. Great North Eastern Railways' service out of King's Cross was disrupted on Thursday and yesterday by the terrorist attack at the station, but the company hopes to be operating to timetable today.

TUBE

Services on the central section of the Piccadilly line are unlikely to be restored for several weeks. The suspended Circle and Hammersmith & City lines will resume "within days". A number of stations were temporarily closed yesterday because of unattended items.

BUSES

Services were suspended in zone one of central London in the aftermath of the attacks. Yesterday buses in the area were operating normally although there were diversions around the crime scenes.

ROAD

Main routes into London were relatively quiet during the morning rush hour, as commuters stayed home. However, there was a "mass exodus" from the capital during the afternoon with heavy traffic on most motorways. Transport for London waived the £8 congestion charge to ease any potential transport problems. The toll will resume on Monday.

AIR

Flights were not disrupted although there was an increase of armed police at airports to reassure passengers.

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