Several contractors, including Bovis, closed their sites, while consultant EC Harris turned itself into a first-aid centre

Better safe than sorry: Workers in central London leave a site after a  security alert on Monday
Better safe than sorry: Workers in central London leave a site after a security alert on Monday

Construction projects all over the capital stopped work after the 7 July bombings and in one case a QS firm close to a blast turned itself into a first aid centre for the injured.

Several major sites, including the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, closed on Thursday as firms moved to minimise the risk to their workers. Contractor Bovis stopped work on all its sites.

One firm affected by the attacks was consultant EC Harris, which has offices in Tavistock Square, next to where the bomb on the No 30 bus went off. It quickly transformed itself into an emergency medical centre.

Gary Williams, head of communications at EC Harris, was at his desk overlooking the square when the bomb exploded. He said:

“I heard a boom, which actually sounded more like a low rumble, and everyone in the office looked at each other and we knew that something out of the ordinary had happened. I went out on to the street and saw the bombed-out bus. There was smoke everywhere.

“There were people all over the place and some passers-by and passengers came in with cuts and bruises all over them. Our first-aiders sprang into action.

“Everyone in the office was trying to help comfort the people who had come in, offering them cups of tea and water while also trying to find out their names and contact details to make sure they called to let their families know they were okay.

Our first aiders sprang into action. There were people all over the place with cuts and bruises

Gary Williams of EC Harris

“They seemed stunned by what had happened and everyone was quite quiet. Nobody was panicking. Even people who had come off the bus seemed calm.

“It was obvious to me when I saw the bus that it had been a terrorist attack. At first, the police came and told us to evacuate the building but then the duty manager came and told everyone to stay inside.”

The area soon become a huge crime scene and only key workers, those with contract deadlines, or those who deal with financial matters were allowed to stay.

High-profile construction sites immediately stepped up security precautions. A spokesperson for Wembley contractor Multiplex

said it had increased security around the perimeter of its sites after phoning the Metropolitan Police

to ask for advice on how to

respond to the situation.”

Additional police patrols and checks have been put in place across Heathrow airport and T5

BAA spokesperson

He added: “The police advised us that we should try to keep as many people on site as possible so as to take the pressure off the public transport system. We advised people to stay on site but did not stop anybody who tried to leave.”

A spokesperson for CTRL said the construction schedule had not been affected by losing half a day’s work. He said: “On Thursday the site was closed at midday and remained closed for the rest of the day. The next day everyone was back and it was business as usual. At the site closest to the station, site 105, the contractor’s staff stayed on to help the police with their rescue efforts. They gave the police equipment to help with the rescue and also any first-aiders available went to offer support.”

BAA, the client for the Terminal 5 work at Heathrow airport, increased security. A spokesperson said: “We have taken appropriate measures in conjunction with the police and the control authorities. Additional police patrols and checks have been put in place across the airport and Terminal 5.”

The London Development Agency said it would not be writing any special security measures into the tenders for the Olympics in addition to what had been recommended in the bid documents.

Unions were quick to call for enhanced safety. M&E union Amicus held a meeting with employers at the CTRL site next to King’s Cross to call for a review into the evacuation procedures for workers. The meeting was held on Tuesday morning after claims that procedures were confused.

Tube Lines, which operates the Piccadilly Line that was attacked between King’s Cross and Russell Square, has yet to send in its own specialist engineers to repair the tunnel because the police are classifying it as a crime scene.

The terror attacks are unlikely to lead to a hike in insurance premiums similar to those that followed 11 September, when increases forced many smaller companies out of business.

City sources have reassured the industry that last week’s attacks are unlikely to result in similar scenario.

‘London, like the USA, is a target now’

Construction firms were among the first to witness the scenes around Tavistock Square and King’s Cross. Vikki Miller spoke to some of the contractors who were nearby.

John Bayford, of Camden building and decorating contractor CH Peppiatt & Son, was working in 36 Tavistock Place, next to Tavistock Square, when the bus bomb went off.

He said: “I heard a bang, but it was quite a muffled sound. We all thought it was a skip lorry turning over or something like that. I was on the roof and I looked across and could see the bus with loads of smoke coming out. There was mayhem everywhere.

“Everyone from Tavistock Square was being evacuated and there was lots of panic on the streets. There were a few hundred people looking surprised and dazed just standing about, not knowing where to go.

“I carried on working for a couple of hours and left later in the roofer’s van. We had to leave ours where it was. On Friday, we were back at work, like normal. The road was cordoned off but I said I was working down there and they let me pass, without any ID.”

Conor Rice, a site manager for HG Construction, was building a halfway house for the Salvation Army between Tavistock Place and Marchmont Street. He said: “We had two compressors going at the time so we didn’t hear the bang. I asked if the others wanted to go home and they said no. We didn’t see much point in going home and watching it on the TV. The decision whether to continue working or not was left to me and I decided we should carry on. I didn’t feel there were going to be any more security risks. I’m from Belfast so I’m used to bombs going off. On Friday, we all came back to work at the normal time and those that usually get the Tube just got buses instead.”

Shkelzen Muhab, a construction worker at St Pancras station, said he was concerned that nobody had checked sites after the bombs.

He said: “From what I could see, nobody checked inside the building sites afterwards.

All they would have to do is get a fluorescent jacket and a hard hat. We are all more vigilant now but we also have to trust each other more. We were back at work the next day and security was a bit tighter. The problem is, London, like the USA, has become a target.”