Royal approval for major London rail revival project

By Geoff Courtney

The UK’s newest, and one of its most innovative ever, railway restoration projects received royal approval on June 13 when Princess Anne unexpectedly rode its tracks, to the delight of everyone connected with the £26-million scheme.

Royal train: Princess Anne prepares for her Mail Rail journey 70ft beneath the streets of London on June 13, accompanied by the Postal Museum and Mail Rail’s head of collections Chris Taft. POSTAL MUSEUM AND MAIL RAIL

The princess was at the Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant centre in Clerkenwell, near King’s Cross station, to open a new postal museum and launch Mail Rail, which from July 28 will provide visitors with the unique experience of travelling 70ft beneath the streets of the capital on a railway that operated for 76 years but was virtually unknown to members of the public.

As the date of her visit approached it was thought that safety concerns would prevent the princess either riding on the unfinished railway or even viewing it. However, those fears were dispelled shortly before June 13, with a Mail Rail spokeswoman explaining that ‘procedures were put in place to enable it to happen.’

Thus, after formally unveiling a plaque at the museum recording its opening by the Queen’s daughter, she walked across the road to Mail Rail and descended to a former maintenance and repair depot that is in the final stage of being transformed into an exhibition and hospitality centre as well as the embarkation point for the public rides.

There she viewed the various displays, including one featuring the travelling post office, afterwards she embarked on the Mail Rail ride in one of the battery-powered trains that have been specifically designed and built for the project.

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