London to open 'secret Tube' to tourists
Monday 17, March 2014
A network of disused underground tunnels, that were once used to transport post across London, have been given the go-ahead to open as a tourist attraction.
Mail Rail first opened in 1927 and in its heyday used a series of driverless trains to transport post beneath the capital's streets from the East End's Whitechapel to Paddington in the west.
Islington Council has approved plans to allow tourists to descend beneath the city and ride the trains that sit below some of the London's most iconic sights.
From 2020, visitors will be able to ride the 'secret Tube', departing from Mount Pleasant, in Islington, which was once one of the largest sorting offices in the world.
The original track was 6.5 miles long and had a total of eight stations and at some stages narrowed to just 7ft wide. Tourists will ride the miniature trains for a total of 0.6miles, while learning about the history of the Post Office.
Ray Middlesworth, an engineer who has worked in the tunnels, said: 'It's the holy grail for underground explorers - a hidden part of the rail network. Some people called it the Post Office's best-kept secret.'
Adrian Steel, director of the British Postal Museum and Archive, added: 'It is a fantastic opportunity that Islington borough council has given us - the green light to open up these unique tunnels to the public and reveal the captivating story of Mail Rail.'
A new postal museum will also open on the Mount Pleasant site in 2016, displaying artefacts from British postal history, including telegrams from the Titanic, original evidence from the Great Train Robbery trial and pistols used to defend mail coaches in the 19th Century.
The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) still needs to raise £0.5million and will be launching a public appeal later in the year. It is also waiting to hear the outcome of an application for £4.5million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Mail Rail was finally closed in 2003, after Royal Mail built a new hub in Willesden, west London and it was decided it would be cheaper to transport mail by road instead of using the tunnels.
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