Secret WWII tunnels in London to open to public

Alexandra Ferguson

London (CNN) — Plans for what promises to be London’s most spectacular underground tourist attraction have been revealed: the $268 million transformation of a mile-long series of World War II tunnels in a dazzling immersive experience.

So clandestine that they were once protected by the United Kingdom’s Official Secrets Act, the former spy tunnels are to be remodeled by a team of architects including those responsible for Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay and Central Battersea Electric, if the project wins approval this autumn.

The London Tunnels is a new multi-million pound project that could become the British capital’s most exciting underground tourist destination to date. Credit: DBOX/The London Tunnels

The Kingsway Exchange Tunnels, around 40 meters below Chancery Lane tube station in High Holborn, were built in the 1940s to protect Londoners from bombing raids in the Second World War.

Kingsway Exchange Tunnels: The Kingsway Exchange Tunnels, photographed here in 1952, are a mile-long series of tunnels located beneath Chancery Lane tube station.Credit: BT Media Image Library/Getty Images/Courtesy of The London Tunnels

That was the last time they were open to the public. Its next wartime role was to house the secretive Directorate of Special Operations, a branch of MI6 that inspired James Bond’s Q Division.

From telephone exchange to direct line

They were later expanded to become the Kingsway Telephone Exchange, which in the 1950s served as an internal communications center during the Cold War. It even housed the hotline connecting the leaders of the United States and the USSR.

World War II Shelter: This photo shows the tunnels under construction in the early 1940s as a shelter for Londoners during the height of Germany’s aerial bombing campaign against Britain.Credit: BT Media Image Library/Getty Images /Courtesy The London Tunnels

The station housed a dense network of 5,000 trunk cables and a busy community of 200 workers who manned the telephone lines.

In the 1980s, British Telecom took over the premises and created the world’s deepest licensed bar for use by government staff, with a games room with pool tables and a tropical fish tank – the height of luxury. the 1980s.

Operations Center under Holborn: After a period as the headquarters of the top-secret Special Operations Executive, the tunnels became the headquarters of Kingsway Telephone Exchange. Credit: BT Media Image Library/Getty Images/Courtesy of The London Tunnels

The telephone exchange technology became obsolete by the end of the decade and was dismantled. But now fund manager Angus Murray, CEO of The London Tunnels, wants to bring the tunnel’s story to life for visitors with immersive high-resolution displays, interactive structures, scent-emitting technology and hundreds of precision speakers.

No expense will be spared when it comes to immersive magic. Credit: DBOX/The London Tunnels

underground london

“The history of the tunnels, their scale and their location between London’s Holborn and the historic Square Mile could make these tunnels one of London’s most popular tourist destinations,” Murray says in a statement.

The plan consists of investing 140 million pounds (US$170.5 million) in the restoration works and another 80 million pounds (US$97 million) in all the extras.

The new project aims to bring the history of the tunnels to life using cutting-edge technology and interactive exhibitions.Credit: BT Media Image Library/Getty Images/Courtesy The London Tunnels

With Wilkinson-Eyre Architects on board, they have a stellar team for this ambitious project, which far exceeds any other offering in the city. Today, London’s best-developed permanent underground tourist attraction is the Churchill War Rooms, located just 3.5 meters underground and a fraction of the 8,000 square meters occupied by the Kingsway Exchange Tunnels.

The tunnels in 1968, as a communications center. Credit: BT Media Image Library/Getty Images/Courtesy The London Tunnels

London Underground also regularly organizes guided tours of the city’s abandoned tube stations and tunnels called Hidden London. These tours are always very popular and packed, and tickets sell out as soon as they become available.

The tunnels were used until the late 1980s, when telephone technology became obsolete. Credit: BT Media Image Library/Getty Images/Courtesy The London Tunnels

However, they remain the best opportunity to live an underground adventure for a few years, since the London tunnels project, if it goes ahead, will not welcome its first visitors until 2027. But everything indicates that the wait will be worth it. the sorrow.

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Peggy McColl

Mentor l NY Times Bestselling Author. Hi, I'm Peggy McColl, and I'm here to deliver a positive message to you!

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