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Manchester unearths forgotten 1970s tube line

Two Manchester university academics have discovered the forgotten half-built remnants of an underground rail line

Lecturers Martin Dodge and Richard Brook found the space beneath Manchester’s Arndale shopping centre.

The void, 9m underground, has been identified as the initial stages of a planned 3.7 kilometre railway and would have linked the retail centre to a new station.

Receving parliamentary powers in 1972, the project was planned to commence in 1973 and complete five years later.

The train line would have linked Piccadilly and Victoria stations with new stops at Central Library, Whitworth Street and the junction of Market Street and Cross Street.

The discovery coincides with the publication of a new book and exhibition called Infra_MANC showing architectural plans for the project.

Dodge said: ‘Manchester has long desired desire to have an underground railway crossing the city centre and perhaps the earliest was plan was put forward in 1839.

‘In the 1960s and 70s, the Picc-Vic tunnel was a proposed rail route beneath the city centre and would have formed the centrepiece of a new electrified railway network for the region.

‘Our research has unearthed new engineering plans and architectural drawings that reveal how Manchester just missed out on having its own mini tube system.

‘When we came across the space beneath Manchester Arndale - by consulting old plans and a process of elimination we became certain that it was the location of the Picc-Vic station.’

It would have featured two 5.4-metre diameter tunnels costing £9.3 million at January 1973 prices.

Richard Brook said: ‘The infrastructure grant application was eventually turned down in August 1973 by John Peyton, Minister for Transport Industries.

‘Everyone on the job received a copy of Peyton’s letter refusing to provide the finance, it was a devastating blow to some who had spent 10 years of their life on the scheme.

‘Peyton cited announcements of £500 million reduction in public expenditure by Chancellor of the Exchequer Anthony Barber saying, “there is no room for a project as costly as Picc-Vic before 1975 at the earliest”.

‘With hindsight we can see it was unlucky for the Picc-Vic scheme to be caught amidst this political and economic restructuring and seemingly without a powerful figurehead to champion its cause.’

He added: ‘Vague, half rumours that the Guardian Underground Telephone Exchange (GUTE) may also have had its own impact on the Picc-Vic proposals.

‘We investigated these only to discover that the project team did know the location of the GUTE, but were forced to sign the Official Secrets Act in 1971, despite the tunnels being declassified in 1968.’

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