Brunel’s Thames Tunnel opens to public before East London Line returns
THE public gets a chance to walk through the world’s oldest tunnel built under a river before Underground trains start running through it again. Brunel’s world heritage’ Thames Tunnel at Wapping is being opened tonight and tomorrow as part of the East Festival
THE public gets a chance to walk through the world’s oldest tunnel built under a river before Underground trains start running through it again.
Brunel’s world heritage’ Thames Tunnel from Wapping to Rotherhithe is being opened up to enthusiasts tonight and tomorrow as part of the East Festival, something organisers say hasn’t happened since the 1860s.
The 1,200ft long Thames Tunnel, lined with classic brick arches designed by leading Victorian engineers of the day, opened in 1843 after 18 years of painstaking excavations and several floods from the river above.
It was dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World,’ with 50,000 people walking though on the first day, each paying a penny a time. A million people had walked through in the first 10 weeks.
But the money ran out before the spiral ramps could be built at either end to take horse-cart traffic.
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So it opened as a pedestrian tunnel until the East London Railway Company bought it in 1865. An underground line was built from Bishopsgate to New Cross which opened to regular passenger traffic in 1871, using the tunnel to cross under the river.
Now it’s being featured as part of the East Festival,
a unique opportunity for Londoners to walk through the tunnel, arranged by the Brunel Museum at Rotherhithe.
It reopens to rail traffic in April or May after three years, with the rebuilt East London Line extended from Whitechapel north to Dalston and from New Cross south to Croydon.
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1824: Parliamentary Bill defining powers of Thames Tunnel Company for “making and maintaining a tunnel under the Thames” receives Royal Assent
1825: Formal start of work on the shaft at Rotherhithe
1843: Queen Victoria opens the tunnel to pedestrian traffic
1852: First Thames Tunnel Fancy Fair with entertainment under the river which becomes a social hub
1865: Tunnel is formally handed over to East London Railway Company.
1871: Regular passenger trains pass through Thames Tunnel, from Bishopsgate to New Cross
1914: Tunnel comes under Metropolitan Railway management with London’s Underground railway rationalisation
2007: East London Line closes for conversion to London Overground Network and extension
2010: East London Line due to reopen in May, extended to Dalston and Croydon