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Churchill Tube station could reopen

Published 28/04/2015

A man walks along a passenger tunnel in the disused Down Street station in London's Mayfair district
A man walks along a passenger tunnel in the disused Down Street station in London's Mayfair district

A disused Tube station which Sir Winston Churchill used as a retreat during the Second World War could finally be opened to the public again, 80 years after the last passengers disembarked.

Down Street station in London's Mayfair district has been closed to the public since May 1932 due to low passenger numbers.

The station was later used by the British prime minister's war cabinet after architects created wood-decked meeting rooms and underground living accommodation for up to 40 people.

Transport for London (TfL) is now inviting businesses to submit innovative ideas to transform the forgotten station into a commercially viable business as part of its plans to generate £3.4 billion in non-fare revenue to reinvest in the transport network.

Graeme Craig, TfL's director of commercial development, said: "This is a fantastic building. It is in the heart of Mayfair, it's got great heritage, it's been an important station.

"But it has not been used for 80 years. The challenge we have is in a complex difficult space, what uses can we bring to this station? How can we bring it back to life?

"It's not straightforward - we have spent months trying to work through whether it can be used at all. We are now confident that it can be."

Down Street station opened on the Great Northern Piccadilly and Brompton Railway in March 1907, but suffered from low passenger usage due to its proximity to existing stations Hyde Park Corner and Dover Street (now Green Park), and a reluctance from Mayfair's residents to use public transport.

The station later played a vital role in the Second World War when it was used as the protected underground headquarters for Churchill's railway executive committee.

It is believed the location close to Westminster made it popular with Churchill. A disused bathtub which forms part of the living quarters still bears the inscription "WC".

Although the station is closed to the public, it is still in regular use as part of the day-to-day operation of the Tube. TfL will lease out part of the station to businesses who have the ability to use the space to "create something exceptional and establish the next chapter in the station's history".

Mr Craig said: "The combination of space, history, and location, makes this a unique opportunity. We are looking for a partner with the imagination to see the potential here and the capability to deliver it."

"Adjoining parts of the station are still required for running the Tube, but we will work with interested parties to ensure the commercial and operational activities can happily co-exist.

"I think given its location in Mayfair, given the history, this is something that will probably end up being a low footfall, possibly high value location - maybe a gallery, exhibition space, a restaurant. That's why we are choosing to run the competition that we are."

It is hoped the station could be renovated within the next two years.

Other disused Tube stations have been used for theatrical events, filming opportunities and retail hubs.

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