London’s network of forgotten Tube stations will be transformed into prime real estate. Photo: Louie Douvis
Ghost tube stations worth billions go on sale
Beneath London’s buzzing underground rail network, packed at rush hour, are disused spaces worth an estimated £3.6 billion ($6.6 billion).
Transport for London (TfL) is preparing to invite companies to bid to transform the abandoned underground stations into a network of tourist attractions, retail hubs, hotels and museums.
It is understood that TfL will announce the beauty parade within the next month.
The public body owns 750 disused tube stops and horse tunnels. Some housed migrant workers in the 1940s and others doubled up as air raid shelters during the Second World War. It is believed to be in talks to decide whether it invites consultancies and construction firms to bid for just one site to kick-start the project, or a collection of the spaces hidden below London.
The idea to tap into the potential riches beneath the capital’s streets was first mooted in 2009 by former banker Ajit Chambers, who believes the network is worth £3.6 billion.
The ex-Barclays executive unearthed an old map of “ghost” stations five years ago and has since been working on a proposal to transform TfL’s “sleeping portfolio of assets”.
The 41-year-old entrepreneur then founded the Old London Underground Company to pursue his vision to renovate the stations, delivering revenue directly to TfL without disrupting the current rail service.
He has identified 34 possible sites, but the first phase of his plan involves 13 flagship stations, which will be converted into art galleries, nightclubs and, potentially, a National Fire Brigade museum.
Mr Chambers has four investors on board, including Duncan Vaughn-Arbuckle,the founder of Vinopolis, London’s wine museum. He has also been in talks with the Mandarin Hotel Group and West Court Real Estate – led by Vinjay Kapoor, the talent behind the Canary Wharf design.
However, TfL insists there is “no affiliation” with the Old London Underground Company and, in the run-up to the public tender, will not allow Mr Chambers to show potential investors around the site.
A spokeswoman for TfL said, “We cannot show any prejudice ahead of a public tender.”
TfL has already begun some conversions. The tunnels below Clapham North are home to a herb farm, and the organisation has signed a deal with Waitrose to run a service where customers pick up goods from lockers at Chalfont & Latimer, on the Metropolitan line.