Thousands of commuters stay at home as normality slowly returns

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One part defiance and two parts necessity brought people back onto the streets and on to the capital's crippled transport infrastructure yesterday. Some were nervous, others swept such feelings aside. Hundreds of thousands simply stayed home.

Those who did make the journey had one thing in common. The familiar commute, which until Thursday was something to be endured, the boredom mitigated with the aid of a mobile phone, iPod, newspaper or by simply falling asleep, had fundamentally changed.

Gita Singh, 28, a dentist, was making her daily journey from Hammersmith to London Bridge, as normal but she admitted being scared. "I don't feel safe but life has to go on," she said. "I will carry on the same; you have to do what you have to do." Chris Lubiniecki, 21, and Martina Stelmasinska, also 21, both Polish students, were feeling less anxious, despite being trapped on their way back from Gatwick yesterday for five hours.

"We feel safe," they agreed stoically. "After this," Mr Lubiniecki said, "London will be the safest city for the next 10 years." A retired City worker, Peter Hardy, of Haslemere, Surrey, said many commuters had been waiting for the terrorists to strike. Now they faced no option but to keep going and place their trust in the authorities. "I have no criticisms of the authorities," he said. "They are doing whatever they can and they can make it more difficult for [terrorists] to get through."

London may not have been the ghost city it was on Thursday, but it was one only slowly returning to life. Swaths of the Tube system remained out of action. The central section of the Piccadilly line will not be fully restored for several weeks because of the damage caused by the explosions, managers announced last night. Full Circle and Hammersmith & City line services will be resuming "within days".

Commuter trains into the capital were far less busy than usual and the travel information organisation Trafficlink reported only half the number of vehicles on arterial roads during the morning. "There wasn't really a rush hour to speak of," a spokes-man said. Transport for London had waived the £8 congestion charge on the centre of the city for the second day running to ease potential transport problems, but few motorists took advantage of it. But last night Trafficlink reported a "mass exodus" from the capital, with motorways jammed from early afternoon. A spokesman said: "People just want to get away from it. Who wants to be in London at the moment?"

London Underground trains were not running on the Metropolitan line between Baker Street and Aldgate and there was no service on the Piccadilly line between Hyde Park Corner and Arnos Grove station.

Travellers avoided the Tube system where possible. Hundreds of seats were available on the normally packed trains passing through the centre of the city.

Constant announcements about security reminded passengers of the worst days of the IRA bombing campaign in the 1970s and 1980s. Travellers were repeatedly told to take their possessions with them when they arrived at their destinations and not to leave rubbish behind in case it led to a security alert.

Tim O'Toole, managing director of London Underground, said that with three million passengers a day using the system, there was a difficulty in striking a balance between running a reasonable service and introducing appropriate security measures.

"In conjunction with the police, we are reviewing our security arrangements and we will introduce new measures if they so request," he said. A London Underground spokeswoman said trains involved in the incidents had been extensively damaged and there had been track damage at the three incident sites.

"The trains have not yet been removed because the locations are crime scenes. We don't know yet how long it will be before these areas are back in service."

All mainline train services were running normally except those operated by Great North Eastern Railways, which were heavily disrupted by the closure of King's Cross station yesterday.

There was also some disruption to the Thameslink timetable. In the latter part of the rush hour yesterday morning there were fresh security alerts at Liverpool Street, Charing Cross and Euston. Liverpool Street stayed closed for more than an hour because of two suspect packages, although the other two reopened quickly.

Having suspended bus services yesterday in the zone one area in the centre of the capital, Transport for London provided a full timetable yesterday, apart from diversions around sites designated as crime scenes.

The roads around Russell Square, Tavistock Square and Aldgate High Street may remain closed today.