Mysteries buried deep underground in London’s labyrinth of Tube tunnels could soon be coming to the surface.
Exploring London Underground’s abandoned stations, or ‘ghost’ stations, is limited to just a couple of small TfL-led tours a year. Tickets sell out quickly despite virtually no publicity, as the curious clamour to see parts of the city which have been closed off to the public for decades.
Now, one of the most historically significant of London’s ghost stations, Down Street, is set to reopen as a tourist attraction – 80 years after closing to passengers.
The enterprise is the creation of Ajit Chambers, founder of The Old London Underground Company, and following four years of careful planning he now has a consortium in place to acquire the lease for the site.
During the Second World War, Down Street, which lies on the Piccadilly line between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner, served as an underground bunker for Winston Churchill and his war cabinet.
The plan is to recapture that moment in the station’s history in an interactive World War II exhibit and open it up to tourists.
But Down Street isn’t the only station on the project’s route map. Ajit has submitted proposals to bring 26 abandoned Underground stations back to life as money-making entertainment venues.
[pullquote]I based my model on Alcatraz, which is a tourist attraction that was assisted by the mayor of San Francisco, and designed the Ghost Station Project, with the assistance of our mayor Boris Johnson.[/pullquote]
There are plans already in place to convert Brompton Road, another Tube station acquired by the MOD to help in the war effort, from an antique Underground station building into a heritage tourist attraction – climbing wall and roof-top restaurant included.
Ajit said: “In a credit crunch some projects will deliver revenue in a sustainable fashion, others will purely be political moves. This project is both – it delivers revenue created from state-owned assets, as outlined by David Cameron, and highlights any bad political behaviour hampering projects that are crucial to London’s growth.
“I based my model on Alcatraz, which is a tourist attraction that was assisted by the mayor of San Francisco, and designed the Ghost Station Project, with the assistance of our mayor Boris Johnson.”
Since setting out on the project in 2009, Ajit, a former City banker, has been in constant talks with TfL and the MOD about gaining access to the stations. With many of the sites sitting alongside a live railway, both Boris and TfL have needed convincing that it can be done safely and without dipping into the public finances before fully backing the project.
Ajit has already secured £20 million from a private investor to finance part of the scheme, but to roll out the project across all 26 forgotten Tube stations, smaller seed investors are being sought.
News titles from around the world have now featured the project. The Old London Underground Company website received 700,000 views in just 48 hours after being featured in a BBC article online.
Project partners are also now queuing up to get involved. Ajit is currently in talks with the owners of the Dominion Theatre about a possible collaboration.
“I have also found a section of track that was used to take people to the Dominion Theatre. This site is of particular interest to me as the nearby section holds the tunnels that secured the Elgin Marbles in the Second World War,” added Ajit.
“The most exciting thing is that there will finally be a project that will harness the spirit of London – opening the ghost stations in the world’s oldest Underground system.”