Disused tram tunnel restored by Crossrail

A disused tram tunnel that was commandeered for the Crossrail project is due to be handed back to Camden Council following a restoration to its original condition.

Crossrail took over the old tram tunnel in 2012 and used it as a construction site, drilling down to provide additional support as the tunnel boring machines passed beneath that part of London.

A unique part of London’s transport history, the Kingsway Tram Tunnel was the first of its kind in the UK when it opened in 1906. The Grade II listed structure in Holborn connected London’s north and south tram networks, carrying passengers between Holborn to Waterloo Bridge. It was enlarged to accommodate double decker trams in 1929, but was closed in 1952.

In 1953, London Transport used the tramway to store 120 buses and coaches in case they were needed for the Coronation. Part of the southern end of the subway opened to road traffic as the Strand Underpass in 1964.

After Crossrail took over the site in 2012, an 8 metre deep, 5 metre wide, shaft was excavated within the tram tunnel to allowed engineers to pump a cement-like grout into the ground to correct tiny ground movements that occurred as a 30 metre deep temporary access shaft was built nearby and the 1,000 tonne tunnel boring machines passed below.

The site later housed a 40-tonne dry cement silo, and two 60 centimetre wide bore holes were used to pump cement, water, air and electricity to the new railway being built 6 storeys below ground.

Work to restore the Kingsway Tram Tunnel and remove visible evidence of its use to support construction of the Elizabeth line is now underway. The grout shaft has been filled, and the concrete floor has been reinstated. The temporary protection for fixture and fittings in the tunnels will be removed, the boreholes filled, and the site tidied and repaired. Finally, the iron tram rails will be put back into their original locations, and the site returned to the London Borough of Camden.

Ownership of the Kingsway Tram Tunnel is split between the London Borough of Camden and Westminster City Council.

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15 comments on “Disused tram tunnel restored by Crossrail
  1. Tim Taylor Willson says:

    Ian – you provide fascinating insights into things in London and around. Do you have a method by which financial contributions can be made to allow you to continue?

  2. Richard Fitch says:

    A very interesting article as I remember travelling through the tunnel on a tram in the late fifties with my father and was amazed that we came out on the Embankment ,good memories ,thanks

  3. Richard Fitch says:

    P.S. Was there a stop halfway through the tunnel or is my memory playing tricks?

  4. Les Guy says:

    My dad took me on a tram through the kingsway tunnel just a few days before they took the trams away. I had been through there a few times before but remember my dad telling me that it was the end of an era. My dad was a real cockney.
    Born in drury lane. Worked as a porter down the old covent garden market.

    • Garret Smyth says:

      Bloody hell!

      I bet no one has been born in Drury Lane for years!

      In pleased to meet you, even if only on t’internet!

  5. Geoffrey says:

    There were TWO stops in Holborn Tram Tunnel. Holborn just outside the Central/Piccadilly lines station and the other ALDWYCH just north of the curved Aldwych road. Both were in the centre of Kingsway road with steps down.

  6. Melvyn says:

    And as Crossrail finishes used of Kingsway Tram Subway it will likely be used again for the Holborn Station upgrade .

    It was strange how it was used for services that headed to and from Theibalds Road and yet no services were introduced which headed straight on towards Euston Station …

  7. Gerard Burton says:

    I don’t know why this Tunnell area could have been used for trams or cars again.

    • Nick L says:

      Part of the tram tunnel is in use for cars – the Strand Underpass runs inside it at the southern end – except that access is now from on top of Waterloo Bridge rather than underneath. I think the old entrance on the Embankment has been converted into a bar.

  8. Mike J says:

    For some time in the late 60s, before the Thames barrier was constructed, the Thames Flood Warning portacabin offices were based here nearly at the top end. I had to go there several times to test out the GPO lines used to get water level information and send out possible flood warnings.
    I vaguely remember travelling through it with my Gran in the 50s.
    Of course the Embankment end was and is possibly still a club space for some years

  9. Jay says:

    It was great to see some of the old trams at the Acton Museum Depot this week.

  10. Andrew Gwilt says:

    Why not use it as a 2-way underpass for cars, bikes and emergency vehicles to use the underpass and to prohibit larger vehicles including buses and HGV’s with diversion routes.

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