WSP has been selected to undertake engineering surveys and consultancy work for the £220m project.
A network of tunnels used during World War II and the Cold War, located underneath Kingsway, near High Holborn, are set to become the capital’s latest tourist attraction.
The BT Group has agreed to sell the tunnels to London Tunnels Ltd, a consortium led by Australian banker Angus Murray and backed by a private equity fund. The firm will invest £140m in restoring the site and an additional £80m for the installation of interactive screens and other museum features.
London Tunnels has selected WSP to conduct the engineering surveys on the site and design the new museum. Also working on the project will be WilkinsonEyre, the architect behind Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay and London’s Battersea Power Station.
Known as the Kingsway Exchange Tunnels, the network features over 8,000 square metres of tunnels 40m beneath the Chancery Lane tube station in High Holborn.
The tunnels were built in the early 1940s to shelter Londoners during the Blitz. They were repurposed during the Cold War, becoming the headquarters of a covert Special Operations Executive branch, which employed professional saboteurs under orders from Churchill to “set Europe ablaze”.
The site also operated TAT-1, the first transatlantic telephone cable, which connected the White House and the Kremlin. Eventually, the complex went on to feature a restaurant with mock windows and London’s deepest licensed bar, used by more than 200 government workers.
Author Ian Fleming, an intelligence agent during the war, worked in the complex, and used the location as inspiration for the ‘Q Branch’ featured in the James Bond novels.
The complex was decommissioned in the 1980s after the telecommunications system became obsolete but was protected under the government’s Official Secrets Act for almost 70 years.
“The history of the tunnels, their scale and the location between London’s Holborn and the historic Square Mile could make these tunnels one of London’s most popular tourist destinations,” Murray said.
“We now wish to work with local stakeholders and residents to make this a reality and look forward to hearing their thoughts as we finalise a planning application.”
WilkinsonEyre director Paul Baker added: “These secret spaces present the opportunity to tell extraordinary stories that helped shape the 20th century, alongside awe-inspiring digital immersive experiences.”
London Tunnels is expecting to send a planning application to Camden Council in November.
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