UK: Islamist terror: why I now fear going on the Tube

Lurking deep beneath London is a labyrinth of tunnels incorporating underground railways, secret passages, drainage systems and subterranean chambers. The long-abandoned Kingsway Tram Subway is an elusive place that offers a unique glimpse into the past.

Attacks by militant Islamists, such as those in Sydney and Peshawar, have convinced Michael Burleigh to re-think his daily routine in London

My local Tube station is a model of civility in a part of south London that some call “The Hood”. It has a second-hand book exchange, a thought-for-the-day on a whiteboard, and piped Bach and Mozart to repel delinquents. Passing through to the down escalator, one has a sense of well-being.

In recent months, however, not even the music has dispelled a sense of foreboding. Almost involuntarily, I find myself scanning fellow passengers for potential Islamist terrorists before settling into the morning papers, then go on the alert again at Elephant & Castle, where many of the likely demographic board the trains…

…All you need to spread mass terror is a machete, a rusty pistol and a mobile phone in the minutes before armed police arrive. The visceral nature of the violence is its own advertisement. If I close my eyes, I can still clearly see the blood-covered hands of Michael Adebelajo as he ranted into a phone camera…

The BBC should be encouraged to resolve its inconsistent use of the terms “militant” and “terrorist” from one programme to another. It is not the nation’s licensed student radical, but a mature public-service broadcaster.

The pious human rights racket should also take a long look at itself before leaping to the defence of people who regard killing children and quarry workers as part of the struggle to impose a religious totalitarianism that denies life, as well as liberty, to all except the armed thugs who would enforce it.

Then I, and many others, might not be so anxious when we board the Tube.


I have never been on a subway. There are none in Vancouver — the geography is not suitable. There is an underground tunnel beneath the Fraser River — built because a bridge would interfere with shipping — and it always gave me the creeps, even though I commuted via that tunnel for several years.

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  • They’re kind of neat, but there is something a little otherworldly about them.

    Based on Death Wish they haven’t changed in any way I can identify since the ’70. (I’m not referring to the racially-integrated gang violence, which I’ve never experienced on a subway, but just to the whole layout.)

  • ntt1

    Vancouver does have the air port line now but it is only partial going underground only in the down town area.It is nothing like the London tube system that is layers of tunnel systems , hundreds of feet deep. it would be creepy and very alarming to be trapped down there during a muslim outreach event, the system is way below the Thames and myriad ancient creeks in enclosed culverts cross at various levels.

    • Frau Katze

      My grandmother refused use the Deas Island Tunnel after it was built…my mother said she was creeped out and drove through extra traffic to use the Pattulo Bridge. (Worked in Vancouver, lived near Cloverdale).

    • Frau Katze

      Where is underground part of the airport line? I checked on Google and all I see are references to an elevated train. (Skytrain).

    • Frau Katze

      Found it at Wikipedia! I was confused because they referred to “Skytrain”. Goodness knows they desperately needed it. The traffic in greater Vancouver is insane! I’ve got used to much smaller Victoria now and cannot imagine living there now.

      • ntt1

        sky train is spelunker train from waterfront station to Cambie at marine drive to the south.

  • Brett_McS

    Part of the Sydney underground was used to film The Matrix. Cool, eh?

  • Brett_McS

    When I was a kid, Sydney still had the Red Rattler trains which were old wooden carriages, entirely manual, so the doors and windows could be open (and usually were, especially in summer) while travelling along. Going into the tunnels, half hanging out the door, was like a free ride on the Ghost Train.

    • Frau Katze

      Weird.