The fate of Aldwych Underground station lies in the hands of Dr Brian Mawhinney, Secretary of State for Transport.

If it closes, it will join the ranks of 'ghost stations, former platforms and passageways which lie abandoned under the capital's streets. Some have survived almost untouched since the last passengers handed in their tickets.

Aldwych, which lies at the end of its own Piccadilly Line spur running from Holborn, is open during rush hours only but London Underground wants to close it to save money.

It opened in 1907 under the name Strand, providing a late-evening service for theatre-goers and requiring a connection with the main Piccadilly Line and all points north and west.

However, echoes of laughter from West End revellers died away in May 1915, when the Cabinet and War Office retreated to the platforms to escape bombing by Zeppelins. During the Second World War, when

Tube stations provided ideal air

raid shelters, Aldwych was reserved for children.

Now some of the station's most regular visitors are film crews, making use of its long hours of closure to shoot undisturbed. It has been used for

more Tube sequences than any other station.

London Underground has all but committed itself to closure. A spokeswoman said: 'The case that LUL gives is that the number of people using it doesn't warrant keeping it open.

Anti-road groups see its potential demise as another nail in public transport's coffin. Tony Bosworth, of Friends of the Earth, said: 'If Aldwych closes, it will send out all the wrong signals. We should be expanding public transport, opening more stations and not closing the ones we already have.

But closing a Tube station is no mean feat. Permission must be gained from the Ministry of Transport and if objections are lodged a public inquiry must be held, in much the same way as planning permission is sought.

If the inquiry goes in its favour, LUL will then embark on the often lengthy process of gutting the station, first removing vending machines and benches, followed by bulkier electrical equipment and finally the lifts.

Tube travellers pass such stripped or 'ghost stations daily. Every now and then they can be glimpsed in the shadows as trains slow down or stop at signals, but most go unnoticed.

The Piccadilly Line between Hyde Park Corner and Green Park passes through the former station of Down Street, which became one of Winston Churchill's secure bunkers during the Second World War.

Brompton Road, in Knightsbridge, and York Way, north of King's Cross, were victims of progress as new Piccadilly Line stations were built around them rendering them redundant.

The Central Line also lost three stations. Recent photographs of Wood Lane near BBC Television Centre in west London, which closed in 1947, show grimy enamel nameboards and tattered posters hanging on the walls.

The British Museum station, built to serve High Holborn, was scrapped in 1933 after the development of a new station at Holborn (Kingsway). In 1981, Blake Hall on the Epping-Ongar branch saw off its last


District Line passengers travelling east from Monument can see the platforms of Mark Lane station as they approach Tower Hill and the original 1937 advertising posters on the walls.

And one station in St John's Wood is now inhabited by the basement of a Chinese restaurant.

However, it is those who ride the Northern Line regularly who will be familiar with possibly the most ghostly of all abandoned stations

Mornington Crescent, whose dimly-lit platforms have been closed for almost two years for refurbishment. There are plans to reopen it, but no date has been set.

(Photograph omitted)