True Gripes: Tunnels of fear: Who really cares about Tube safety?

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The Independent Online
It's Friday, midnight, on the last train to Wembley Park. In the last carriage two lads furtively light their roll-ups. One with a bad perm, tattoos and scabs on his face, the other pale, pink and spotty. 'Can't you wait until you get home? How many people had to die at King's Cross to make you not smoke on the Tube?', I offer.

Sounds pretty reasonable, calm even. A smirk and a shrug and that's the sum of the response. Fumes continue to spiral towards the ceiling. The carriage isn't empty but the space around our boys certainly is. Nobody else is interested. They stare at the adverts, the Tube map, anything but the smoke and the smokers. King's Cross seems a poignant and appropriate moment to alert LRT's finest.

Of course, the tabs have been secreted away by the time a guard arrives. 'You do realise it's a criminal offence to smoke on the Tube?' he threatens. Innocence personified, they must be quaking in their trainers.

'The police will be waiting at the next stop,' he announces. Fat chance. Great Portland Street comes and goes. No sign of the Met. The fags are relit. 'Someone's smoking on the train]' shouts the bad perm. What a funny little man he is. Passengers shrivel into their seats. The train arrives at Baker Street. I get off. So do my two new 'pals'. No sign of any authority.

They head for the northbound Jubilee Line throwing a 'keep your fucking mouth shut next time' at me as they stroll away. I try and look hard but probably just look like a prat. I stride to northbound Bakerloo Line platform full of bile and venom going over what I should have retorted.

I guess they didn't know it. I certainly didn't, but the northbound platforms of the Jubilee and Bakerloo lines are right next to each other.

Having found sanctuary at the end of the platform my fight-or-flight mechanism is thrown into gear again as they appear from nowhere and stroll towards me.

I look around at the other men on the platform: a hippy in vest and matching loons and a studious speccy guy with a trimmed goatee. If something starts will these two help me out? I doubt it. They meander up and down the platform. 'Isn't that the bastard that grassed us up?' They're cocky, loud, threatening. I'm 6ft and 13 stone but two on one isn't tasty odds. I know who I'd back if it came to the crunch. So do they.

After an eternity wind rushes up the tunnel and a train pulls in. They go out of their way to get into my carriage. It's pretty full. I feel safe. I face away from them but can still hear their voices. There are only two possibilities: they'll get off at Kilburn Park or Queen's Park. At Kilburn Park, the one with the scabs on his face taps me on the head. 'See you later, mate,' he whispers. The train pulls out leaving them weaving along the platform. The sweat on my palms begins to dry.

I don't mind people smoking, but not on the Tube. If I had travelled one hour later I would have been at King's Cross the night of the fire. But some people don't give a damn. I'm not talking about these two morons. Those who really don't seem to care are other passengers and LRT. Smoke alarms are cheap. Why aren't they in every carriage? That evening I had wondered when I'd either have to run for it or fight the pair. If they had wanted to have me, they had the opportunity. Street fighting is a skill I never acquired.

In a movie I would have destroyed them. In real life it's more likely I'd have been stabbed or beaten senseless.

Would I do it again? Like everyone who looks the other way, I don't want to have to think about it.

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