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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reopening Disused Tube Stations - a step closer?

There's a strong interest in uncovering the past on the London Underground. The
walking tours of Brunel's Thames Tunnel were extremely popular and over-subscribed. Last month, vintage ads from the 1950's discovered at Notting Hill Tube received tens of thousands of views and excited blog posts. Now, Ajit Chambers from the Old London Underground Company may be getting step further to his mission to re-open 26 old abandoned Tube stations.

Disused passageway with vintage 1959 posters, Notting Hill Gate Tube station © London Underground

I first blogged about his aim in September 2009, when he said his plans had been "warmly accepted" by the Mayor. Since then he's progressed some more as Dave Hill wrote on his blog for The Guardian yesterday.

Possibly hoping that Chambers would go away, Boris Johnson and his economics director Anthony Browne encountered him in an audience for small businesses.

Chambers said "I met with Anthony and Boris a year ago to let you know that I designed a company that will make £40 million for London. The company has now been built, we have found funders; we are using the same engineering teams that are building Crossrail to open these stations up as tourist attractions and venues. I would like your help to get into the first three venues as soon as possible."

He'd spoken to a health & safety consultancy that works for the Tube. He has an investor who's prepared to put half a million quid into the business. He claims there's a business model to turn the disused and abandoned stations into tourist attractions and venues for corporate events.

Down Street disused Tube station in Mayfair by Ewan-M
Down Street disused Tube station in Mayfair by Ewan-M

Johnson asked "Are we saying that the consortia that you can put together, they will cover the cost of remediating the stations and doing them up and making them compliant?"

Chambers said it was and that "I am in contact with Coca Cola and Vodafone's Head of Communications, and the Olympic Portfolio Director in order to pour in that cash tax-efficiently. Also, it means that the government can lease these sites to me and still make money for TfL from them".

Anthony Browne agreed to follow up the ideas and Chambers has a meeting set up with the Mayor's office in the next couple of weeks.

Peter Watt (formerly of TimeOut) met Chambers last year and testifies to his determination. He wrote yesterday "I hope he succeeds. Londoners have a tremendous thirst for the mysterious parts of the city that lie beneath their feet – the weekend opening of Brunel’s Thames Tunnel earlier this year proved to be extraordinarily popular – and a dedicated museum to Subterranean London would be possibly the most exciting to happen in this city ever (although I may be biased in this view)."

I'm not sure I'd go quite that far, but know it would be extremely popular.

Watt believes Chambers has the will to succeed with this venture: "Chambers is determined, as Boris and Browne are soon to discover, and I would never bet against him. 'I’m not going to give up,' he told me. 'There’s no stopping me. And as soon as people realise that they seem to come on board pretty quickly.'"

As I said last year, I wish Ajit Chambers every success and will be following his progress with great interest.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, June 16, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE