The Crossrail project is rightly making headlines but a little known secret cross rail, deep below London, could be making a comeback.
The London Post Office Railway – dubbed Mail Rail – still connects Whitechapel and Paddington. The six- mile railway was mothballed ten years ago but is still in good working order thanks to Ray Middlesworth who looks after the line. Now plans are afoot to re- open the railway as a tourist attraction.
The British Postal Museum and Archive has submitted plans to Islington Council proposing to reopen a section beneath the Mount Pleasant sorting office as a public museum. The scheme’s supporters hope to raise £2m of lottery funding for what could be a unique subterranean railway experience.
When the railway closed in May 2003 – visitors can still see the duty rosters on the office notice board – Ray Middlesworth stayed on with a small band of colleagues piloting the empty ghost trains, making sure the tunnels were safe. Ray has worked there for 27 years.
‘They say once a railwayman always a railwayman,’ says Ray. ‘There was a real family feel, with lots of fathers and sons working among teams.’ Friends among the 220 staff often met up for a drink after the work and staged Christmas parties which included rides for children on specially converted trains.
Islington Council is expected to make a decision on proposals next month. Once approved Mail Rail could be running once more by 2020.