Secret plans to evacuate London

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Top secret plans have been drawn up to enable Londoners to stream out of the capital should it come under a catastrophic attack but ministers have so far refused to approve measures that would tell Londoners where to go.

Top secret plans have been drawn up to enable Londoners to stream out of the capital should it come under a catastrophic attack but ministers have so far refused to approve measures that would tell Londoners where to go.

Major roads have been designated emergency escape routes, but leading emergency planners say ministers have failed to agree to install road signs identifying them, because they are afraid this would cause public panic.

The revelation follows last week's exclusive report in The Independent on Sunday where Britain's top emergency planners said the country could not cope with a Madrid-style bombing.

An angry David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, suggested the planners had failed to express their concerns to the Government before talking to this newspaper which caused a senior planner to retort that Mr Blunkett must be living on "another planet".

News of the secret evacuation plans will increase the argument. Prepared by London Resilience, it turns arterial roads into "expressways" to empty the capital after, for example, the explosion of a "dirty bomb". Both lanes of trunk roads such as the Westway (A40), Finchley Road (A41) and Rochester road (A2) would be cleared for cars driving out of London, with all lights set at green and access from sideroads blocked off.

London Resilience, senior sources say, recommended to ministers that they should put up signs marking the evacuation routes but they have refused to do so, risking chaos in an emergency.

The sources say ministers feared "raising public alarm". But Patrick Cunningham, the chairman of the Emergency Planning Society believes ministers' repeated warnings of an attack are much more alarming. "It is much more scary to be told an attack is inevitable than to be told what to do if there is one," he said.

The Emergency Planning Society is preparing to hit back against an attack from Mr Blunkett when the Home Secretary said: "If an emergency planner believes that something is inadequate ... why not do something about it? Has any of these officers written to me? Has any of them written to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, who is responsible for civil contingencies? How many officers have raised their concerns?

"We know of those concerns because we read them in the papers yesterday... we will happily take them seriously when they propose their own plan and suggestions for improvement."

Ian Hoult, the society's chairman for southern England, described Mr Blunkett's reaction as "incredible". He added: "I don't know what planet he is on." He said the society had been constantly warning ministers and MPs of Britain's lack of preparedness "with increasing desperation over the years". It is now drawing up a detailed dossier of its representations to give to Mr Blunkett.

Comments