Chance to visit the disused Aldwych tube station

UPDATED 1st November 2011 – more tours announced for the end of this year. Details here.

UPDATED 4th September 2010 – special guided tours of the station will be available later this month, more details here.

Of the closed tube stations that litter the London Underground, two top the list of stations that people want to visit. One is Down Street, near Hyde Park as it was used as a WW2 command centre, and the other is the iconic Aldwych/Strand station, which is largely unmodernised.

Next week, you can get to visit part of one of them.

As a suitable location for an exhibition on modernising the tube network, London Underground is staging an exhibition, Transforming the Tube in the ticket hall of the Aldwich station.

The exhibition runs from Monday 28 June to Friday 9 July and the opening times are:

  • Monday – Friday 10am – 7pm
  • Saturday and Sunday 10am – 4pm

More details about the exhibition on the TfL website.

I think the chances of being allowed down into the lower platforms is about ZERO, sadly, but it is still a chance to peer inside a building that had been largely closed to the public since 1994.

Abandoned Platform

The entrance is on Surrey Street, which oddly is much larger than the “official” main entrance on Aldwych.

I don’t know how much of the ticket hall will be used, but if you have a chance to get up the other side of the doorway for the main entrance, have a look at the floor. There used to be a newsagents stand there, and the floor is very noticeably worn away by the number of people who stopped there to buy a paper.

I have had the pleasure of a visit to the station before – and you can see my photos of the depths of the building on my usual flickr website.

Also – if the gate is unlocked, why not have a look at a so-called Roman Bath House that is just down the same side street?

Opening it to the public?

The difficulty with opening the lower levels to the public is that the only way up/down to the lower levels is via a single spiral staircase, and that restricts the ability to get groups in and out of the building in numbers that make a tour economically viable.

However, here is an idea that gets around that problem.

Open up the building and let people stream into the building and wander around freely – then go down the staircase to the lower levels and along the corridors to the platform(s). Here, rather than then trying to go back up the same staircase, let them walk along the disused tunnel to the equally disused platform at Holborn – and then leave that station via the normal public exit.

By controlling the numbers of people in each “section”, you can let people just wander around freely without the need for guided tours – so that cuts down on the number of staff needed to run tours, although you still need crowd control stewards. Display boards and handouts can manage the information giving side of things.

I think the double-whammy of two disused stations plus walking along a tube tunnel would be quite awesome. You just have to look at the excitement when the East London Line tunnel was opened for a weekend to realise how much interest there is in this sort of thing.

One for the London Transport Museum?

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15 Comments

  1. One one hand super excited about this, as its something I would do in a heart beat…on the other not so excited as I… boo hoo… no longer live in London.

  2. Dont you think that the cause then, for not allowing people down into the platform is due to the ‘crazy’-but-precautious Health and Safety concerns? I think it makes strong sense in this context if there is only “a single spiral staircase” for access as you said.

    In the case of an emergency, it will be difficult to evacuate people; and emergency in this day and age is at the twinkle of an eye.

    Good information though.

    • IanVisits

      Not really, because the staircase was always rated as having sufficient capacity to act as an exit in an emergency. You just ensure that the numbers of people in the platform areas never exceeds the safety rating for the available exits.

  3. Great. Then proposals should be made to TfL. May be, they would be happy to source (contract) it out, etc.

    But also, your suggestion of using it as entrance sounds robust although I have another bone about that. I think that TfL may be thinking people can use that route to board/ext trains at Holborn and hence avoid fares. Also, it may cause stampede at rush our in Holborn as well as cause porousity when crowd control is in place in Holborn.

    Although for the last reason, the simple solution could be to close the Aldwych entrance every time Holborn is closed/reduced in capacity for crowd control.

    • IanVisits

      The traffic control problems wouldn’t exist at Holborn as this is a proposal for the occasional weekend. As i understand it, the Aldwych building is still used by TfL for training, so they are not going to want to open it permanently either.

      I have sent the idea to TfL in the past, but nothing happened (evidently).

  4. Ronnie

    I may go, but it its only the ticket “hall” then I may not. Many Thanks for the info.

  5. Dancer

    The atmosphere here is awesome… I spent an amazing night here, a couple of years ago, a guest of a ‘house music’ event here. It was very cold here, though… I think this kind of celebration is best held when the weather is ‘warm’. I love the London Underground… it’s part of our life and history. Thank you, Ian… for bringing this to our attention.

  6. Tim

    The answer is obvious… but don’t trains still go through Aldwych?

  7. david

    hello customers im hearing impaired would like to see visit your tube museum about abandomed stations to down street,brompton road,aldwych northweald and ongar stations i may interest look forward your viewr visit please email a detail to us asap thanks

  8. freya

    Are there any disused stations open to the public to view at the moment/plans for the future?

    • IanD

      There are currently plans afoot to open Aldwych station to visitors on two weekends later this year (2011). Probably last weekend in November/first in December. Keep an eye on the London Transport Museum website for details.

  9. Thanks for every other great post. The place else may anyone get that type of info in such an ideal means of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I am at the search for such info.

  10. Christopher summers

    Why is there a 16 year old requirement. My son is 14 and really wants to see this station…. so do I..! Shouldn’t it be for parents to decide if their offspring are suitably equipped mentally to take in the history that surrounds us in London? After all…there are no working trains there at present.

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