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Emergency calls

An inspector is summoned and people are asked to evacuate

Commuters are unable to board a full tube train in Clapham Common station during a tube strike, London, June 11, 2009
A different announcement from the usual unattended baggage one © Getty Images

London, and England in general, appears to be at a heightened state of alertness all the time. Which is not a bad thing. During my last visit, in 2007, a police officer told me to keep my bag close while I was having breakfast at a roadside café (it was lying a on chair four feet away). I haven't been careless with it since.

We were constantly reminded at tube, train and bus stations through announcements and posters to report unattended baggage or to tell a security official if you see anyone behaving suspiciously. They tell you so often that you almost know all the lines and therefore aren't actually listening to the announcement.

So when a different announcement was made at St Pancras tube station yesterday afternoon, everyone took notice. It began with "Will Inspector Haans please report to the operation room immediately?" The inspector was evidently needed urgently because the announcement was repeated ahead of other warnings telling us to mind the gap between the platform and the train and whether the next train had four or six coaches. The succession of calls for the inspector ended with an urgent voice telling us that it was an emergency and asking all passengers to leave the station immediately.

Some people on the platform got up instantly and walked briskly (no one ran) towards the exit. Others were tentative, wondering whether to obey or wait and watch. And then there were those who barely reacted. More people began to head out after a second announcement was made asking us to evacuate. We were eventually told to stay put and asked to ignore the emergency warning because it was merely a "malicious act" by someone at the station. Another ordinary day travelling through London.

George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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