Pipe Dreams

Much lamented unbuilt extension of the Bakerloo line to Camberwell - tunnels exist almost half a mile towards Camberwell from Elephant & Castle. Plans abandoned in 1948 but hopeful residents still dream of completion LINKS        CONTACTS        SUGGESTIONS        The most work to build an underground outside London happened under Manchester in the early 1970's. Artist impression of St Peters Square
STARTED BUT STOPPED
Here are tunnels where at least some work was done preparing embankments or digging holes
LONDON
  CAMBERWELL
  ELSTREE EXTENSION
  EXPRESS TUBE
  FLEET LINE
  NORTHERN HEIGHTS
  SOUTH FROM BRIXTON

MANCHESTER
  PICC-VIC
EUROPE
  ANTWERP READY TO GO
USA
  CINCINNATI'S SUBWAY

AUSTRALASIA
  SYDNEY
 

NOT A SOD WAS DUG
GLASGOW'S EXTENSION
MANCHESTER'S 10 PROPOSALS
BIRMINGHAM'S UNDERGROUND
LONDON'S YEADING-CLAPTON

LONDON'S CRICKLEWOOD-BRIXTON
AUCKLAND
DUBLIN'S 1970'S TUBE

 

MAD MONORAILS
LA 1963
SOUTHAMPTON 1987

 

PURE FANTASY
BRIGHTON METRO
PADDICROSS LINE
MANCHESTER METROTUBE
MAXWELL'S LONDON

TRAM JAMS

ALMOST MAYBE
GLASGOW CROSSRAIL

LONDON'S MANY CROSSRAILS EDINBURGH CROSSRAIL

 

  Manchester's Picc-Vic

There have been not one but TEN previous proposals to build an Underground railway in Manchester including the 1839 tunnel which would have been the worlds first (see Manchester's 10 Proposals) but the only one which ever got started was the infamous Picc-Vic (map).

The city has been virtually encircled by Railway stations and arches since the arrival of the first passenger service between here and Liverpool in 1830. By the 1900's there were FOUR major terminals and as many goods stations but none of them got close to the heart of the city. Over the years many ideas had surfaced  to join the city's disperate stations but in the 1970's the idea was to link the two remaining major mainline British Rail termini (Victoria, to the north of the central area and Piccadilly to the South east) via a new 21.5 m twin bore tunnel under the city centre with 3 intermediate stations.

Advanced plans were published in 1973 by the then Public Transport Executive 'SEL-NEC' (South East Lancashire-North East Cheshire - a clumsy amalgamation of the councils that covered the Manchester conurbation before it was integrated into a proper Metropolitan County named Greater Manchester).  It came at the same time as the Tyne & Wear PTE published it's proposals for the Metro and the Merseyside PTE began work on a tunnel under Liverpool linking their main British Rail stations.

With hindsight Manchester's proposals could be seen as being too ambitious. The Liverpool single bore tunnel and the Newcastle Metro both got built but the Picc-Vic suffered a different fate. When much of the city's old centre was bulldozed in 1972 to make way for the bright new covered Arndale shopping centre, provision was made below the surface for the routing of the Picc-Vic. Platforms were constructed which would have formed the basis of the 'Royal Exchange' station so that passengers could gain direct access to the great new shoppers paradise above.  There are very few records of these platforms and no known photo's however the SEL-NEC report contains some wonderful maps.

Although the cancellation of Picc-Vic was a huge setback to both Manchesters transport needs and the future development of new Underground and cross city heavy rail routes outside London it is fair to say there were some fairly bizarre idiosyncrasies with the route proposed.
   Two stations were so distant from one or other of their main entry points that they would have   required the building of extensive 'Passenger Conveyors'. The one from Oxford Road mainline station oddly heading to the 'Central' station in St Peters Square rather than the much nearer 'Whitworth' station just a block away. The other 'Passenger Conveyor' from the northern end of Piccadilly Gardens seems positively preposterous. Any of the three other stations would have been nearer and involved less tunneling or passenger conveyor-ing, it's route neither being direct nor sensible. That said the location of 'Whitworth' would have been ideally placed for the recent growth of that area and the nearby 'Gay Village' and 'Central' (possibly more accurately named 'St Peters Square' or even 'Albert Square' would have been ideally placed for the growth of this end of town (G-Mex, Great Northern & Oxford Road).

In the same report are a few paragraphs detailing the real lack of rail infrastructure in a number of other core spines. The hurried text clearly outlines a need but gives away the truth that there was no time to study these proposals in depth. none the less they conclude that to build most of these lines underground construction would be necessary for most of the routes through densely populated busy neighborhoods and could be argued that these routes are still in dire need of a non-road based transport solution. Imagine what a superb underground transport infrastructure Greater Manchester would have had if the Picc-Vic and these rapid transit lines proposed in 1973 had ever been built!

The whole scheme was cancelled by the Government on December 19 1974 after its costs soared to 105m although there is some healthy speculation that cost was not the real reason for the scheme's cancellation: a website called Laddism & Labyrinth (http://map.twentythree.us/laddism.html) has this intriguing explanation: Picc-Vic....' was prevented by the existence of a system of bunkers and rail lines creating a Regional Seat of Government (RSG) beneath Piccadilly Station - part of the network which would have come in action in the event of nuclear war during the sixties. More rumours have been circulating recently about the discovery of part of this 'secret city' being discovered in 1995 by Nynex cable TV workers, who were promptly ordered to fill the cavity they had unearthed with several tons of concrete. It is tempting to speculate on the geographical alignment along which Piccadilly Station, Manchester Town Hall and Crown Square all lie: a GPO cable and/or rail link may conceivably have been laid during the 1960s as a feature of the RSG'

 

Anyone who worked on Picc-Vic or has any contributions to make to the discussion about Underground railways in manchester is welcome to submit comments, information, maps or pictures.