No return to the Aldwych

Deep in the heart of London lies a Tube station for ghost trains only. Simon Calder visits a film set and tourist attraction

The guidebook Let's Go: Britain and Ireland is over-optimistic. The publisher which promises "We check every fact every year" maintains in its 1997 edition the fiction that Aldwych underground station is still part of the London Underground. The station still functions - but mainly as a film location and occasional tourist attraction.

Sadly, the last train ran from the station on 30 September 1994. Since then, the elegant 90-year-old station has been through a series of transformations. Whenever a film company wants a location for an underground sequence, it is directed to the platforms and tunnels 100 feet below the Strand in central London. The video for the current Suede hit, "Saturday Night", was shot here, though the signs read Holborn, half-a-mile along the tunnel.

As you discover on the excellent London Transport tour of the station, its original name was Strand - you can just make out the sign above the elegant terracotta portal. In the idealistic days at the turn of the century, Strand was intended to be the terminus for trains from the northern suburbs. But then an American entrepreneur bought up the rights granted by Parliament for the as-yet-unbuilt Great Northern & Strand and Piccadilly & Brompton lines. He realised that joining them was the way to make a fortune. So when Strand opened in 1907, it was already stranded at the end of a branch line from the mighty Piccadilly. The first train set the tone for most of the next century: it carried no passengers.

The station enjoyed a flash of glamour in 1908, when the odd post-theatre express ran non-stop to Finsbury Park. In 1915 the name changed to the geographically correct one of Aldwych, while the station settled into life as a WC2 backwater, whose main customers were BBC World Service staff commuting to Bush House across the road.

Ambitious plans to connect Aldwych with Waterloo were abandoned, though, with the hindsight so common in British transport policy, it would have provided a valuable link with the Eurostar train terminal. Similarly, the Jubilee Line was once intended to serve Aldwych, but the route was diverted south of the Thames.

Finally, as part of the cuts that saw Ongar and North Weald vanish from the Tube map (apart from the Let's Go version), Aldwych was abolished. Fortunately for visitors keen to explore hidden London, it occasionally opens for tours organised by the London Transport Museum. The next opportunity is a week on Sunday, 16 February, but bookings are heavy. Aldwych is much more of a success as a tourist trap than it ever was as a Tube station

To book the Aldwych tour, which starts at 12.30pm and 2.30pm and lasts around 90 minutes, call the London Transport Museum on 0171-379 6344 and ask for Marketing. Tickets cost pounds 7.50 for adults, pounds 5 concessions.

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'