CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Restoration of Kingsway tram tunnel set to begin

Work on Edwardian tram route is part of Crossrail project

23 October, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

The slope coming out of the tunnel in Holborn

A RESTORATION project to make good an Edwardian transport tunnel used during the creation of Crossrail is due to start.

The tram tunnel lies beneath Kingsway, in Holborn, and was mothballed in the 1950s. Part of the shaft was used as a roadway but the northern end was closed. The team building Crossrail took over the council-owned site in 2012 as part of the project to build a new, cross-London underground link.

Engineers used the tunnel to sink two boreholes to take concrete down to the new rail link, due to open next year. They also built 40-tonne concrete silos to store dry cement at the site and used a diamond-tipped drill to create the boreholes for concrete to flow to the new Crossrail tunnel beneath. Now an application has been lodged at the Town Hall to make good the Edwardian feature and remove all evidence that for five years the tunnel has been used to build Crossrail, which includes seven new stations in central London.

Ornate features such as cast-iron railings have been protected and in the new planning application, Crossrail describe how they will sensitively put back other historic features such as granite setts and remove covers over tram tracks that run through the tunnel, which is owned by Camden Council. Opened in 1906, the tunnel was built by London County Council. The space was enlarged in the 1920s so double-decker trams could use the route.

It originally ran from Embankment through to Holborn and included, as the new Crossrail will, a number of underground “stations” for passengers to get on and off. The subway by Holborn station was expanded using a cut and cover method but in 1952 the tunnel was closed. In the 1960s, the southern end was turned into a road.

In Crossrail’s application, they said: “There is very little of architectural significance in the area between the portal and the tram station, located south of Holborn. Decorative finishes such as the glazed brick, travertine marble, and ironwork, which feature elsewhere in the subway, are absent north of Holborn Station.

Here the finish is of concrete throughout, except around the entrance ramp. “The tunnel entrance ramp’s retaining walls are faced with white glazed bricks and the tunnel entrance ramp retains its original cobbled road surface and tram rails, with a granite clad portal, and granite surrounds at street level surmounted by cast iron railings.” Either side of the tunnel, the walls are made of concrete and feature a series of recesses to provide safe refuge to those walking through them. Further north, at ground level, the tunnel boasts cast and wrought iron gas lamp stands.

London Transport Museum’s head of collections Martin Harrison-Putnam said: “The tram tunnel operated for less than 50 years and provided the only link between the north and south London tram networks. Opened in 1906, serving two subterranean stations at Holborn and Aldwych, the tunnel was enlarged in 1929 to accommodate double deck trams. The pioneering decision by London County Council to construct the country’s first tram tunnel was both innovative for its time and now of enduring historical importance.”

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