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London Bombing Inquiry Criticizes Emergency Communications

A London assembly inquiry into the July 7 bombings that rocked the British capital has underlined shortcomings in the emergency services.

On July 7 of last year, terror struck at the heart of London when four suicide bombers attacked three subway trains and a bus. Fifty-two victims died in the blasts.

For the past six months, a special committee of London's assembly has been examining the emergency response and what lessons could be learned.

While citing individual heroism, the 700-page report published Monday, severely criticizes the radio communications network used in the subway system.

Committee chairman, Richard Barnes, says the system simply failed.

"In one of the most sophisticated and technologically aware cities in the world, it is unacceptable for the emergency services to have to rely upon runners (messengers) to gain and exchange information," he said.

A new digital radio network is being developed for London's system, but it is behind schedule. Barnes says the sooner it comes on line, the better. Until that happens, he adds, the capital's underground communications system remains inadequate and that means lives are at risk.

"Yes, there is an inability to communicate under the ground, and we would be in exactly the same position later today or tomorrow that we were on the 7th of July," said Barnes. "The problem has been identified for 18 years - two successive governments, nine years each - it is unacceptable that London is at threat when there are interim solutions which can be put in place."

A spokesman for Tony Blair says the government is studying the findings in detail.

London Transport has welcomed the report and says the safety of passengers and staff members remains the number one priority.