Saturday 5 July 2008

The Miracle of Carriage 346

On Monday, the third anniversary of the July 7th attacks in London, Channel 4 will be broadcasting a documentary titled "The Miracle of Carriage 346".

There are indeed some miraculous stories contained within the film, and there can be no denigration of the trauma suffered by those involved and the fortitude that so many have displayed – particularly Gill Hicks, whose courage and inspirational strength of character can only engender admiration.

However, one of biggest 'miracles' of this documentary, which will no doubt not feature in the programme, is that the programme researchers have managed to create a film about a carriage which was not only not bombed on July 7th 2005 but was not part of any affected train at all.

The number 346 seems to have originated with a 2005 article by Mark Townsend for the Guardian, the headline of which was, "Blue Watch relive the bomb hell inside carriage 346A"

A response to an FOI request by J7 to Transport For London, however, stated that "There is not a carriage 346A."

Clive Feather wrote,
"The Piccadilly Line train consisted of the following vehicles:


Car 166 was the one holding the bomb
Carriage 346A is, in fact, an impossible carriage:
"A note on Piccadilly Line 1973 Tube Stock car numbering.

Each car has four axles labelled A, B, C, D. Each car has an A end and a D end. The couplings at the A end are different from the couplings at the D end. Cars can only couple A to D. Three cars couple to form a half train.

For example, 146-546-346. 146 is the A car of the half train. 346 is the D car.

A full train would be: 146-546-346-4xx-6xx-2xx where xx is odd.

346 would be the third or fourth carriage from the front, depending on which way the train was going.

The consist of train 331 was 166-566-366-417-617-217.

417 is an A car and 217 is a D car. It is the other way round for odd numbers.

The Tubeprune informs me that:

"Unit 166-566-366 was severly damaged, 366 is probably the only possible survivor but it has no other cars to work with at this time."

Car 346 is still tootling up and down the Piccadilly line
346 without the attached ‘A’ conceivably exists and indeed is probably still now employed on a train on the Piccadilly Line.

To frame an entire documentary around a carriage number which is not the correct one is sloppy journalism at best. Channel 4 have clearly realised their error, for they have since placed a disclaimer on the documentary page:
"It was reported that it was Carriage 346 at the time. However, there has been some dispute in some circles as to the actual number of the carriage when the bombing took place."

Source: Channel 4
To amend their originally published article to add that there is "some dispute in some circles as to the actual number of the carriage" is a somewhat disingenuous and misleading angle. Any dispute of the carriage number originates not in "some circles" on a whim but with the facts of the matter such as they have been confirmed to be with Transport for London, the body responsible for the running of the tube.

When making a factual film about an actual event into which there has never been a cohesive, coherent independent inquiry, an event which caused loss of life in London on a scale not seen since the Luftwaffe Raids and from which the survivors and bereaved are still having to fight for compensation three years later, establishing the rudimentary facts first is the barest minimum that the victims, the injured and bereaved, and the programme's audience deserve.
  • Where did the non-existent carriage number 346a originate?
  • Who gave Mark Townsend this information that no journalist thereafter apparently bothered to double-check?
  • Why is the myth of Piccadilly Line carriage 346a still perpetuated despite confirmation from Transport for London that "There is not a carriage 346A."?