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Tube still lacks emergency comms

But Airwave's due August 2008

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Two years after the 7 July bombings police radios still fail to work in the underground, a London Assembly committee said.

A report (pdf) from the London Assembly has found that two years on from the 7 July terrorist attacks, the capital's emergency services are still without a digital radio system that works on the underground network.

Richard Barnes, chair of the assembly's 7 July Review Committee, said: "Our report highlights continuing problems with Airwave that need to be tackled to ensure emergency services personnel have access to the robust and effective communications system they need."

Airwave, a national digital radio system for police, fire crews and paramedics, is due to operate below ground level by August 2008.

Barnes told BBC's Today programme: "There is a roll out programme [for Airwave] but that is behind schedule. There are interim solutions but they don't seem to be prepared to apply them."

Without an interim solution, such as the personal role radios used by the army and police, emergency workers would be unable to communicate in London Underground's deep tunnels during another terrorist attack.

Better communications were called for at the end of the 1980s by the Fennell report into the King's Cross Underground fire. Barnes told Today that the technology is available, but the Fennell report was put into the "too hard to do tray".

Overall the report, published today, found "significant and welcome progress" on the review committee's recommendations.

Despite technical problems, a new radio system for drivers is on schedule for use across the underground by the end of the year.

Feedback from drivers on the Connect radio has been positive, according to the report. Connect has made communications clearer and more reliable, drivers said.

Fire fighters now have a new coding system, which enables them to identify the precise location of incidents on London Underground, says the report. The London Ambulance Service can also use the system and the Metropolitan Police are working with the fire brigade to gain access to the system.

Transport and emergency services are improving communications between managers attending emergencies and their control rooms. This includes a better system for gathering and communicating key information via the police service to other authorities.

The committee will carry out a further review of progress in implementing its recommendations in November. It will focus especially on the roll out of Airwave.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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