Ring of steel makes a rusty start

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

AMID confusion among police and drivers, but with little traffic chaos, the cordon around the City of London aimed at preventing further IRA bombings operated for the first time yesterday.

At midnight on Friday police set up eight checkpoints and closed off 18 other roads into the City to try to prevent terrorists bringing in bombs. Two massive explosions have devastated the area in the past 15 months.

There are fears that the experimental scheme, which will operate for between six months and a year, may cause gridlock in central London tomorrow when traffic is heavier.

Yesterday police at the roadblocks, which consisted of two or three officers and a few traffic bollards, were trying to avoid causing jams by waving most vehicles through. In one 15-minute period on London Bridge police stopped only one van. The driver was black which, as the IRA does not normally recruit from the ethnic minorities, seemed an odd decision.

At some points police seemed as bemused as the public by the new arrangements. They put up bollards in Moorgate at the junction with Eldon Street to stop drivers entering the City. Puzzled consultations followed before a sergeant arrived to tell them that they had blocked off Moorgate in the wrong place. He admitted: 'We have had some teething problems.'

Some drivers were confused by having to leave their normal routes. Margaret Scott, from Enfield, north London, said: 'I don't drive much in central London and I always go this way to London Bridge. Now I'm told I can't and I'm not sure of the route.'

As the roadblocks were set up, 40 demonstrators staged a torchlight protest claiming the cordon was a denial of civil liberties. But most people's concerns were more immediate. Jack Webb, driver of a black cab, said: 'If they stop many people everything is going to grind to a halt. If they don't what's the point in having them?'

(Photograph omitted)