In the late 1980s, there were plans to turn the empty hulk of Battersea Power Station into a huge theme park, and it was to come with its own high-speed rail link – the Battersea Bullet. It wasn’t what you might think of as a high-speed rail link though, as trips would take just over three minutes, and it was a shuttle between Victoria station and Battersea Park station.

While the trains were standard British Rail, the idea was that they wouldn’t come with windows, and instead, inside videos would play that show a high-speed journey. So the train would be an extension of the theme park, offering a sort of theme park illusion of high speed.

The idea was that trains actually travelling at 35mph would appear to be travelling at 150mph.

With the total project estimated to cost £12 million to cover the cost of refurbishing the platforms at Victoria and Battersea, in September 1988, Derby-based British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL) was awarded a £7 million contract to build the new trains.

Westminster & Pimlico News – Thursday 2nd Feb 1989 (c) British Newspaper Archive

The train design was first shown off in February 1989. The concept image shows the trains with windows, but that’s presumed to be before the idea of replacing them with video screens was thought of.

The train design got to the point where they were given a designation of Class 447, and with three sets of 4-carriage trains expected to be built, British Rail allocated carriage numbers 99469-99481 (from the private owner carriage series) for the individual vehicles. The plan was for two trains to be in regular use, with a third as spare, or on occasions to be coupled to another to create an 8-carriage set on busy days.

Battersea Bullet Class 447 (c) British Rail Engineering

The theme park developer and former Alton Towers director, John Broome said that: “The Battersea Bullet, manned by British Rail drivers and Guards in special branded uniforms, will leave at eight-minute intervals for the three and a half minute journey. Windowless trains with wrap-around video screens will give passengers the illusion of travelling at supersonic speed. Personal touch-screen display units, installed in every seat-back, will enable visitors to call up the daily programme of events and a description of the rides and restaurants, to help them plan their day at The Battersea”.

It was estimated that over half of the predicted 5.7 million annual visitors to the Battersea theme park would arrive by Battersea Bullet.

In the end, the early 1990s recession spelt the end of the Battersea project. The entertainment complex was never built, nor were the trains.

Weirdly though, the Battersea Bullet had a short second life – as a shuttle service between Battersea Park and Kennington station, although in this case rather than a supposedly high-speed train, it was a fleet of minibuses. Opened in February 2018, it closed down less than a year later, in January 2019.

NEWSLETTER

Be the first to know what's on in London, and the latest news published on ianVisits.

You can unsubscribe at any time from my weekly emails.

Tagged with:
SUPPORT THIS WEBSITE

This website has been running now for over a decade, and while advertising revenue contributes to funding the website, it doesn't cover the costs. That is why I have set up a facility with DonorBox where you can contribute to the costs of the website and time invested in writing and research for the news articles.

It's very similar to the way The Guardian and many smaller websites are now seeking to generate an income in the face of rising costs and declining advertising.

Whether it's a one-off donation or a regular giver, every additional support goes a long way to covering the running costs of this website, and keeping you regularly topped up doses of Londony news and facts.

If you like what you read on here, then please support the website here.

Thank you

8 comments
  1. JustWondering says:

    And the £7m?? Was it returned?

  2. James Pike says:

    In a way, the windowless concept was ahead of its time. The Universal resort in Florida uses the same concept for the Harry Potter themed train ride between the resort’s two theme parks.

  3. Thomas Day says:

    Wrap around video screens and touch screens in seat backs. Sounds more a pipe dream as I’d be amazed if they’d have the technology to pull this off in the late 80s/early 90s.

    • ianVisits says:

      Touchscreens were invented in the 1940s, and in commercial use in the 1970s. Casio was selling a handheld computer (PB-1000) with a touchscreen in 1987.

  4. daveid76 says:

    And so ended another UK transport dream, not with a whimper but with a long, flatulent puncture…

  5. Chris Rogers says:

    The story of the aborted Nightstar cross-channel sleeper service through the tunnel is one worth looking into, especially the reasons why what seems such a winner of an idea wasn’t. The trains were built and are now in Canada.

  6. Benjamin Chadwick says:

    “150 mph”
    “Supersonic speeds”
    I’m sceptical that a train doing 35 would feel like either, but there is a very big difference between the two!

  7. Liz Brereton says:

    Battersea had a theme park long before this was planned. There used to be a theme park in Battersea Park and remember going there in the 1970s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

Home >> News >> Unbuilt London