7/7 legacy: How did the bombings change London?

A decade after the terror attack, here’s how it changed the capital

London has changed a lot in the last ten years. In 2005 there was no Shard, no Walkie-Talkie, no Cheesegrater, the Olympic Park hadn’t been built, 24-hour drinking was being brought in for the first time, you could still drink on the Tube, and smoking was still legal indoors.

The 7/7 terrorist attack struck London’s transport network just after the city won its 2012 Olympic bid, and immediately threw the capital from a state of celebration, to one of chaos.

52 people were killed in the attack and hundreds were injured. It was the worst terrorist attack Britain has ever seen.

Since then, London has altered hugely. And many changes have been the direct result of dealing with the devastating attack.

Emergency services

In the aftermath of the attack, a great deal of attention was directed at the emergency services. There were numerous enquiries, including by the government, City Hall and the coroner. The individuals involved in rescuing and helping victims were found to have done a fantastic job in appalling conditions, but communications issues between various emergency departments were found to be lacking.

As the four attacks which hit London unfolded, and emergency calls were made to the Network Control Centre, operators there had to pass information on by word of mouth, and it was hand-written in a log. This meant it was time consuming and difficult to take in all the information, and difficult to disseminate it again.

Since then, the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme has modernised and nationalised the entire communications system between Emergency services.

Other changes include members of the emergency services being trained to a higher level in giving first aid, and more equipment including tourniquets and defibrillators.

In addition, training scenarios such as last week’s Operation Strong Tower test how emergency services would respond and co-operate in the event of another attack.

Transport for London

In the moments following the explosions on Tube lines, Transport for London (TfL) had trouble identifying the exact locations of the trains in the tunnels. There was a lot of confusion over which lines were affected and what exactly the issue was, with some London Underground staff incorrectly identifying the problem as a power outage. In the aftermath of this, TfL introduced a unique identification code for each tunnel and a rendezvous point for emergency services at every station.

It also brought together all the control centres, such as those for communications and those for power, allowing everything to be managed more easily and with less confusion if there is an incident.

Trafalgar square 7/7 vigil

A vigil for the 7/7 victims was held a week after the attacks in Trafalgar Square

News organisations

The 7/7 bombings arguably brought in a new era for the media with two distinct styles of reporting emerging. During the morning of the attack, as news organisations struggled to get information, speculation was rife. Some outlets had reports of three bus bombs and 90 people dead. However, others such as the BBC, stuck to the official line of a power outage on the Tube which the government was sticking to up to three hours after the attacks, despite a growing number of reports to the contrary.

Social media was suddenly the most crucial source of information and verification for journalists. 7/7 was, and still is, the biggest and most devastating event that reporters had ever used social media for in the UK. Immediately after hearing about any serious incident, journalists now turn to Twitter as quickly as the official sources such as the government and police.

7/7 memorial

A permanent memorial to the victims of the attack now stands in Hyde Park. It consists of 52 stainless steel pillars each standing 3.5m high. It was designed in collaboration with many of the victims’ families.  The pillars, one for each victim, are engraved with the date and place of the attacks, and arranged in four groups to symbolise the four places the attacks were carried out – Tavistock Square, Edgeware Road, King’s Cross and Aldgate.

The names of the victims are also inscribed on a 1.4 tonne stainless steel plaque.

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