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They might reopen part of the Post Office Railway under the streets of London

post-tubeThere’s an intriguing report in londonlovesbusiness that the recently privatized Royal Mail might reopen the little-known-about London Post Office Railway.  It’s an automatic narrow guage railway that the Royal Mail used to use for transporting mail across London.  It was used from its opening in 1927 to its closure in 2003, and delivered mail on driverless trains from Paddington in the West of London to Whitechapel in the East, at speeds of up to 40mph.

The more conventional people-carrying London Underground has many disused stations, including the one at Aldwych opened recently for a few days as part of a World War II commemoration.  I myself once pulled into one when a Jubilee Line train from Green Park to Westminster pulled in at Trafalgar Square station instead, having been misdirected underground.  It was weird seeing an abandoned and deserted station with posters of yesteryear adorning its walls.

There were six stations on the Post Office railway, with Mount Pleasant sorting office, the largest, still in use as a sorting office.  This is the one they plan to reopen.  The plan is to make it a museum rather than a working railway, but visitors will be able to ride the train between three stations.  I once suggested to government that they should investigate converting part of the network into a toll link for cars to cross London without the congestion they encounter up top, but I guess it proved impracticable.

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One Response

  1. Good idea about using them as extended underground bypasses for cars, but I can see some of the problems that would need to be overcome for that to happen. Ventilation is a big one. Cars throw out an enormous amount of fumes and while they have been much improved in recent years that only serves to emphasise how bad it is when we’re sitting behind a particularly stinky car. There would need to be ventilation shafts bored up to street level along the route. Then there’s access. We have to get the cars down there, then back up again. So that will require ramps and access roads to reach the ramps, all requiring, I imagine, a huge amount of pretty expensive real estate and some major road works to integrate the tunnels into London’s congested street network. They also need to have plans in place for accidents and emergencies, a breakdown or a car on fire for example. How would emergency services reach the site? The Channel Tunnel has parallel emergency tunnels running along its length, these do not. And who will pay for all this? Government is already spending way too much of our money, I don’t want to hand them another project to mismanage.

    So how about a cycle expressway? Cycle across London and avoid all road traffic. The BoJo Bikeway? 🙂

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