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.
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?