A committee set up to review the response to the July 2005 London bombings has slammed the contracts for the Airwave digital radio system being rolled out by the emergency services because they did not include coverage inside buildings or underground.
The London Assembly’s 7 July review committee probed the communications system in a follow-up to its initial review of the response the bombings.
Its report slams the limited coverage and delays to the roll-out of the system across London’s emergency services.
The Airwave contract, worth nearly £3bn, was awarded to BT in 2000 by the now-defunct Police Information Technology Organisation (PITO) and was then the largest public-private partnership scheme. After BT sold off its 02 mobile arm, the contract was held by 02 Airwave, itself bought by Australian bank Macquarie in April.
Under the contract, individual forces were required to procure their own equipment, and the Metropolitan Police Authority approved procurement for the rollout of Airwave in July 2001. But a series of delays has left the Met now aiming for September 2007 implementation date.
The assembly members’ report cites evidence from the Met Police “that the national contract, tendered and managed by PITO, provides only for open air coverage”. It adds: “Any coverage within vehicles or buildings is referred to as ‘incidental’ in the contract.”
This meant the Met had been forced to purchase additional coverage for “significant sites”, including Heathrow Airport, Wembley stadium and Walworth Road police station, south London. “In the case of Heathrow, the special scheme cost £2.4m,” the committee found.
7 July review committee chair Richard Barnes said: “Our report highlights continuing problems with Airwave that need to be tackled to ensure emergency service personnel have access to the robust and effective communications systems they need. Anything less would sell them and the Londoners they serve short.”