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England Travel Tips 
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  By Mike Valeriani
   
 
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The Royal Mail Underground

 

The Royal Mail Underground is another important small network. The tube does not represent the only tunnels that London sits on. These set of tunnels run 70 feet below the surface between Whitechapel and Paddington and they extend for 23 miles. The system was used up until 2003 exclusively to deliver mail. At its peak it transported 4 million letters every day.

 

Royal Mail Underground map, or MailRail map.

 

The problem of congestion in London goes back a long time, much before the arrival of cars. Ideas and plans to go underground are not a new thing. At the beginning not everyone was convinced that this was a good idea financially speaking, but in the end the first line, which was vacuum driven, opened in 1863.The Royal Mail Underground has always been very unlucky and this first line closed in 1874 due to unreasonable expenses, as it apparently reduced the journey of only five minutes.

About twenty years later, along with technology, came the idea of reopening the tunnels and to use electricity to move the small trains of mail. They worked on it for seven years, till the Royal Mail decided once again in 1902, to abandon the project as they were not so convinced of the advantages compared with the expenses.This first tunnel was eventually purchased by the Post Office 19 years later, but they only used it to pass telephone cables through it.

It looks like at the head office they had some mixed feelings about a Royal Mail underground system. The idea was brought up again in 1909, when a committee was sent to Chicago and Berlin to learn form the success of two lines already in place.

Even though they were not convinced (as usual), works for a new tunnel started in 1915. The excavation of this experimental section was completed in 1917, but works stopped due to the war. For the meantime, this tunnel was used as shelter for the artworks of London museums.It wasn’t until 1920 that works started again and it would take another seven years to complete the line. Trains run as planned for a few years, till the Second World War. This time the tunnel was used as shelter for humans and bunk beds were installed.

The system managed to run smoothly for half a century, till technology came along to destroyed it all. 1987 marks the year of a major modernization of the line, with an entire set of new trains.

Unluckily the timing was wrong, as internet and email begun to revolutionize the world.It wasn’t long before the Royal Mail Underground started loosing money... big time.

At a point they were loosing in excess of one million pounds per day and this brought to the inevitable and definitive closure of the Royal Mail Underground in 2003.For more information on the Royal Mail Underground, please see this article by the BBC.

 

The Secret Tunnels

It certainly doesn’t seem to be a secret anymore, that there are several unknown tunnels under London. A simple search on internet will give you much information. Many of these tunnels are part of the actual tube that are no longer in use, but we are not interested in those. What I am talking about here is another set of tunnels that nobody is supposed to know about. An extended network of tunnels that are used by the government and the Royal Family.

It all started in war time, when invasions were a reality. In order to provide the Queen with an escape route, tunnels were build under Buckingham Palace leading to train stations or tube lines. There are rumours that a tunnel connects Buckingham Palace to 10 Downing Street, to the Parliament and to the Secret Intelligence Service building at Vauxhall

What I can tell you is what I know, because I’ve heard it from a reliable source: a friend of mine. When he was younger he went to work with his uncle, who was a project manager for this company that operated inside government buildings. They were inside a building that had no street entrance, only a fake lobby. I asked him how he got in and he would answer me: “I can’t tell you that” followed by a witty smile.

Secret underground highway.He was clearly involved in top secret stuff and couldn’t spill too much. He did tell me that inside this building, on the ground floor, there was a huge round platform that was a lift capable of holding a large vehicle. They went down... a lot and when they reached the bottom, there was an underground two lane highway with pedestrian corridors all along, that went all the way to Windsor Castle.

Now that I think of it, the Queen is absolutely never seen on London roads. There are probably other tunnels to more than one airport and maybe even to France. He told me that nobody could ever imagine the extension of this secret network.

The Royal Mail Underground is absolutely nothing compared with the miles and miles of underground passages that most people will never know of.

 

 

 

 

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