It’s been announced that the until now secretive tube station built underneath Buckingham Palace is to be opened this summer for people to visit as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

The tube station was built at the height of the Cold War as part of a longer emergency escape railway built for the government and runs between the former government bunker at Marsham Street in Whitehall to a junction with the Piccadilly line at Green Park.

Commissioned by the Chief of Staff, General Birdcage in 1958, it’s understood to be a single-track tunnel, with a terminus at the Rotundas bunker in Whitehall, stations at Wellington Barracks and at Buckingham Palace. Construction was led by the Earl Marsham of Street, whose background in mining and family moto of Stulti vadunt eo quo angeli verentur ingredi seemed apt to lead the construction of this tunnel. It took four years to hand-dig the tunnel, and the spoil was used to landscape parts of Hyde Park near Marble Arch, giving the area the distinctive mounds that it has today.

The stations themselves are just small halts, and it’s expected that just a short 2-car shuttle train would have been used on the line. The shuttle train was run monthly down the line to keep drivers refreshed and the tracks in good working order until the line was decommissioned due to the declining threat of the Cold War and practical realities that it wasn’t much use anyway. The last driver to run a test train along the tracks was G Orwell on 1st April 1984.

Although details were secret, they were declassified earlier this year, along with an unexpected photo of The Queen at the station, and this gave researchers their first chance to map the long-rumoured rail line.

One of the more unexpected revelations was that the top of the Victoria Memorial outside the front of Buckingham Palace is a ventilation shaft for the railway tunnel underneath, having reportedly been designed for a planned public car park that was to go under the front of the Palace courtyard but was never built.

Only the station at Buckingham Palace is being opened to the public, as the Rotunda site was filled in when the Home Office building was constructed, and the Wellington Barracks station is still inside an active military site.

As a practical solution to removing the Head of State and other government ministers from London, the plan was fatally flawed though, as was swiftly realised after it was built. If there were to be an attack on London, it would be impossible to seal off the rest of the Piccadilly line for an evacuation train, and the last thing you want is a private train carrying the Queen being held up on platforms in the midst of an attack.

In practice, helicopters turned out to be a far more viable alternative, especially as they could land in Buckingham Palace’s garden and take people to RAF Northolt, which is a far more sensible place to evacuate the government should the need arise.

The tube tunnel was never used and the tracks were removed in the 1990s, and it passed into legend about the many secret tunnels reputed to have been dug under London during the Cold War.

This summer though, people will be invited to visit the small station under Buckingham Palace for the first time, with details to be announced shortly.

Yes, it’s April Fool.

If G Orwell in 1984 wasn’t enough of a clue, then there’s General Birdcage — Birdcage Walk is the road that Wellington Barracks is on, and Earl Marshall of Street is Marshall Steet, where the other WW2 bunker is based. The photo is from February 2010 when The Queen visited Aldgate tube station.

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Article last updated: 2 April 2022 09:55

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28 comments
  1. D Chu says:

    Happy April Fool’s!

  2. NG says:

    oh yeah?
    1/1/04

  3. Colin Gutteridge says:

    Happy April Fools Day to you. This was a good idea!

  4. Andy C says:

    “The distinctive mounds”: brilliantly funny!

  5. Maurice Reed says:

    Sounds like the secret one under my house!

  6. Alan Murphy says:

    Well done ‘Ian’, nice one!

  7. Angie says:

    A good one.

  8. Hassan says:

    Very funny.

  9. PK says:

    Nicely done.

  10. Rupe says:

    Excellent story! I’d expected it to link to the Jubilee line at Green Park… 😉

  11. David Winter says:

    🙂👍👍👍

  12. Mat H says:

    Dammit Ian – you had me googling “General Birdcage” before I realised 😀

  13. daveid76 says:

    You had me going up until the G Orwell bit.

  14. HL says:

    “The last driver to run a test train along the tracks was G Orwell on 1st April 1984.”

    Nice detail 😆

  15. Peter Hiller says:

    Blinding ,,lol

  16. RichardB says:

    Well done an excellent April Fool! However in the real world it is said that both the Moscow Metro and the PyongYang Metro have secret lines and additional rolling stock to support government officials in a crisis

  17. Aleks says:

    Fools go because the angels are afraid to go

    • JP says:

      Not quite. The angels have more sense and coming from the omnipotent one, it’s a fair bet that they know what’s ahead.

      Cheers Ian.

  18. George says:

    I knew it was a joke because the secret line actually runs to Windsor as it was always seemed a safe stronghold for the Queen under the threat of attack.

  19. Bryan says:

    Well played.

  20. Gabriele Nadin says:

    Well done Ian – I swallowed the whole story until you mentioned the name of the last driver!

  21. Dave says:

    Nice motto “Fools go where angels fear to tread”.

  22. Anthony Cline says:

    So maybe some of your other previous trips are spoofs?!! Elizabeth line; , HS2tunnel?!!

    • Maybe not April Fool after all because there was a tunnel under the DOE in Marsham Street

    • ianVisits says:

      Yes, and the tunnel doesn’t go anywhere near Buckingham Palace, as anyone who knows about the Rotundas at Marsham Street would already know.

  23. Ola says:

    I never thought it was a joke but the Queen’s picture gave me some thinking as she looked lot younger, nice piece.

  24. Liam says:

    “Stulti vadunt eo quo angeli verentur ingredi” Using Google Translate = “Fools go because the angels are afraid to go”. Great attention to detail Ian!

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