Beneath the bustling streets of central London lies a hidden world that once served as a stomping ground for spies but now could transform into a billion-dollar tourist attraction.
With hype around the next James Bond movie building rapidly — with speculation as to who is most likely to take up the starring role in the Christopher Nolan-fronted project causing speculation worldwide — you probably won’t be surprised to hear that a savvy investor is looking to make hay from the Bond boom.
A set of mysterious tunnels buried under England’s capital are set to be transformed into a captivating tourist attraction that aims to rival the iconic London Eye. As reported by Bloomberg, Angus Murray — an Australian-born former executive at Macquarie Group — has embarked on this mission with a staggering £220 million ($269 million USD / $420 million AUD) plan to breathe new life into this historic underground labyrinth.
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A Historic Acquisition
Murray has sealed the deal to acquire the Kingsway Telephone Exchange — the official name of these tunnels — from BT Group Plc, the former state telecom provider in Britain. These subterranean passageways, occupying a staggering 8,000 square meters (86,111 square feet) and residing 40 meters beneath London’s Holborn district, have a rich history waiting to be unveiled to an eager public.
Murray’s plans include adorning the cavernous, cylindrical rooms with massive screens to create immersive, blockbuster-inspired experiences. Simultaneously, Murray is committed to preserving the tunnels’ historical elements, such as the deepest bar in the UK, which once played host to engineers and clerks ensuring secure trans-Atlantic telecommunications during the Cold War.
Making a bold assertion, Murray said this:
“Would I compare this to be as iconic as the London Eye? Yes, I would. Who wouldn’t come here?”Angus Murray
A History Enshrouded in Espionage
Constructed in the 1940s, these tunnels were initially designed as deep shelters during the London Blitz but remained largely unused for that purpose. Instead, they became the covert domain of the Inter-Services Research Bureau (ISRB), a front for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), often referred to as “Churchill’s Secret Army.”
This espionage organization, which later became part of MI6 — the UK’s foreign intelligence service — played a pivotal role in World War II. Notably, Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, served as a liaison officer to the SOE, contributing to the development of eccentric weapons and booby traps, akin to those seen in the Bond franchise.
Challenges on the Horizon
However, the path to realizing this vision is not without obstacles. The UK’s planning system, overseen by local councils, could pose a significant challenge. Murray is currently in consultation with Camden and the City of London’s councils, aiming to garner support for his attraction. In a country where residents have a say in commercial projects through voting on applications, the process can often impede more disruptive initiatives.
Nevertheless, Angus Murray remains unwavering in his commitment to unveiling London’s hidden treasure and bringing a unique piece of history to life. The tunnels, once a well-guarded secret, are poised to become a celebrated tourist destination, offering a glimpse into a world of espionage and intrigue that inspired the iconic James Bond.