The story opens with the lead character's fear of the London Underground and as with most ficiton written about the Tube we can read a lot into it now with hindsight (I've just blogged about an article in today's Metro about London Underground fear). Anyway, this is from the book:
"At any time it seemed the train he was riding might collide with another. Some terrible bomb left by a vengeful terrorist might explode, bringing London crashing down to crush his carriage......These terrors, while Foster acknowledged their improbability, were all plausible enough to keep him from using the Tube whenever he could".
However, he travels on the Tube one day after waiting an age for a bus, and meets an old man , who used to be a London Underground driver who tells him about the Coronation Line:
"It was an extension of the old Metropolitan Line which used to run between Paddington and Farringdon at the end of the last century (by that he means the end of the 1800's). It went right through Shepherd's Bush, Kensington, Hyde Park Corner, up through the West End and back to Farringdon via Holborn. In fact, we're in a bit of it now".
Before you go rushing to Google or Yahoo! this or say, "I've never heard of that" - it's ficticious and as far as I know, there never was a Coronation Line.
"they was going to reopen the whole of the Coronation Line and put beds down there, a sort of massive dormitory. some of my mates started on the cleaning up and then the army took over. They must have changed their minds 'cos they never used it for civilians"
However, this is slightly based on truth. There were eight deep-shelter tunnels and bunkers built below the underground to contain sleeping accomodation for 64,000. And they were used to accomodate thousands of soldiers in the Second World War.
Initially it was thought that, after the war, they would be linked together to form a high-speed extension of the Underground,
"Eight new tube shelters in the London area are now so nearly completed that in an emergency they could be brought into use without delay....constructed in such positions that they can become part of new tube railways that may be driven below London when the war is over" (From the The Engineer magazne in 1942 from Underground to Everywhere by Stephen Halliday)
However, the plans came to nothing and all that's left of the deep shelters now, are the some strange looking buildings marking entrances around the Northern Line (Belsize Park and Goodge Street are pictured by Hywel Williams - who's made a tour of the shelters).
In the short story, the deep shelters and the Coronation Line hid "strange things...Tunnels that weren't man made.....We heard some soldiers had disappeared. Went investigating one of the tunnels and never came back". You'll have to read the story to find out what happens in the end! (The 2nd hand copies in Amazon and abe books are cheap as chips!)