The Kingsway Exchange — a network of wartime-era tunnels beneath central London — could open to the public as a visitor experience.
The 8,000 sqm of passageways, located 40 metres below High Holborn, were originally constructed as a deep level shelter during the second world war, and in the mid-1950s became home to a protected telephone exchange in the era of Cold War. As Subterranea Britannica explains, the 'hot line' between the White House and the Kremlin ran directly through the exchange. The tunnels are also thought to be the inspiration behind 'Q Branch' in the James Bond novels.
Now, the Exchange could open to the public for the first time, under the name 'the London Tunnels'. Working alongside WilkinsonEyre, WSP and Future City, the London Tunnels team has revealed plans to open up the subterranean network as a tourist attraction — telling the story of the tunnels' past through various interactive elements.
The tunnels — which gradually stopped operating from the the early 1980s — also had a restaurant, tea bar, games room and Britain's 'deepest licensed bar', and the latter of these could be resurrected as part of the plans. How cool would it be to sink a Vesper martini 40 metres below the streets of London?
All of this comes with a huge caveat: planning application hasn't yet been submitted (the plan is to do so in November 2023) — so none of this may actually see the light of day. We've got our fingers crossed that it does though — it'd be another subterranean wonder to add to London's ever-expanding list, which already includes the likes of the Churchill War Rooms and Mail Rail.
Find out more about London Tunnels — and have your say — on the official website.