Ambulance services will get a new radio system, O2 Airwave, allowing them to communicate from underground in the event of an attack.

The news was revealed in a Home Office report on the 7 July bombings as a response to criticism suggesting failures in the telecommunication equipment used by the emergency services led to a delay in rescuing those caught up in the attacks.

O2 Airwave is a secure digital radio network dedicated for the exclusive use of the UK’s emergency and public safety services. Designed to carry voice and data communications, the service offers guaranteed levels of coverage across England, Wales and Scotland.

The report says: “Reduced performance of older systems… probably degraded the emergency services’ command and control capabilities particularly in communicating with vehicles and responders on-scene.”

Ambulances across England should go-live with the system by mid-2009 with London Ambulance Service starting their switch-over in summer 2007.

A spokesperson for the London Ambulance Service said: “We have acknowledged we faced difficulties with communications that day [7 July], but this did not prevent us treating and transporting more than 400 patients to hospital from all the sites within three hours.

“The Airwaves system will be a new digital system that will be more resilient in the event of another major incident and will provide better communications in hard to reach places between offices on the ground and our call centre system.”

The Airwave system currently has over 200,000 users in the UK and the Metropolitan Police had 5,900 operational Airwave units in use on 7/7 – which all helped to organise the police setup on the day.

The force now uses Airwave radios to communicate with officers from the MetCall call-handling centres, and implementation there is expected to be completed by October 2007.

Fire services will also go-live with the service between May 2007 and mid-2009 and London Underground will receive a new digital radio system replacement to ensure it is compatible with Airwave.

A spokesperson for O2 Airwave said: “O2 Airwave is part of HMG Critical National Infrastructure and is designed to stay working even during major incidents (like 7/7) when conventional mobile and fixed telephony networks may overload and fail. O2 Airwave is helping to build safer communities, delivering communication where and when it’s needed most.”