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Thames Tunnel (East London Line) open days in Rotherhithe

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Sunday 14 March 2010 10.43am
I know Rotherhithe is slightly out of the SE1 area but some of you on this forum must of made it to the walks through the East London Line railway tunnels under the River Thames through Marc & Isambard Kingdom Brunel's historic Thames Tunnel.

I was curious to find out what people thought of the event. I was one of the tour guides in the tunnel as I have volunteered with the Brunel Museum since 2003. After two days of projecting my voice I am feeling a bit hoarse this morning.

The event really was a once in a lifetime opportunity, at the moment it is unlikely to be repeated in the future for the simple reason the tunnel will be opened to trains again in June when it becomes part of the new London Overground route.

We knew the event was going to be popular but it exceeded my expectations. We had a complete cross section of people attending the majority of whom didn't have a specific interest in the Brunels or railways but thought it would be something very different to do.

I run the website for the Brunel Museum which pretty much melted under the load, processing ten times as much traffic as usual. The problem was our assigned data pipe from the Internet was maxed out - the website server itself could of handled far more requests. Things have calmed down a bit on the webiste so you should be able to get through and read it now.

I really want to read your comments, good and bad. I heard about some problems but then this event was put together within a couple of weeks once the authorisations had come through.

Big thanks must go to TfL, GLA and London Overground for pulling this all together. And an extra thanks to the London Overground who have built a concrete platform at the bottom of the Rotherhithe shaft above the trains to create a space into which the museum will be extended.

The final thanks goes to the volunteers. Safety, security and numerous others were paid staff on the day. People in the Brunel Museum, tour guides and stewards were all volunteers.

Sunday 14 March 2010 10.48am
I should of also said - if you have any questions on the tunnel feel free to ask - I can bore for England on the subject.
Sunday 14 March 2010 12.04pm
There were no tickets! very poorly advertised and lt museum said that it was advertised on Twitter! Nothing on LTM website. Was very annoyed. Sure it was great for those that got to go!
Sunday 14 March 2010 12.21pm
Agree with Gavin - would have loved to visit this tunnel but was completely unaware of it being made open until I came across the SE1 twitter link by which time there were no tickets available. My guess is this was due to administration/authorization issues?
Sunday 14 March 2010 1.05pm
I went yesterday afternoon with my boyfriend and we both found it to be very interesting. I'm a bit of a history geek and dragged him along (I was sure he would've rather been at Millwall watching the game).
It was very informative and we learnt a lot thanks to the tour guide.
I only managed to get tickets as I had seen the event mentioned Urban 75.
How marvellous it would be if one of the bores of the tunnel could be a permanent pedestrian walkway as it's a real shame that the "Eighth Wonder of the World" is to be hidden away again for only train drivers, TFL engineers and rats to see the splendid sight.
A great afternoon, thank-you to those that made it possible.
Sunday 14 March 2010 5.11pm
Saw it on BBC London the other day, who finished their report with 'all tickets have gone', which seemed to be self-defeating publicity. Shame, as I'm sure it would have been interesting.
Sunday 14 March 2010 7.17pm
Tickets, tickets, tickets. I reckon we could of sold the event ten times over without a second thought. There were four tours an hour between 10:00 and the last tour at 21:30. One big problem was some of the news stories did not state we had sold out and hence we had people turning up at Rotherhithe hoping there were some tickets available who were turned away.

The thing we have to remember is what a big undertaking this was for London Overground and at the end of the day they are trying to prepare to run a commercial railway. So, whilst cold comfort to the people who did not go, there is still a large amount of praise to be heaped on London Overground for making two days happen.

As for the publicity it seems that a few people found out and, such was the level of interest, it went viral across the Internet. It was great to see such a cross section of people attending the tours.
Sunday 14 March 2010 8.55pm
exigo wrote:
Saw it on BBC London the other day, who finished their report with 'all tickets have gone', which seemed to be self-defeating publicity. Shame, as I'm sure it would have been interesting.

Precisely what happened to me - I saw it on the BBC website on Saturday.... Shame, I would have loved to see it too.....

Any chance of a repeat action 'due to popular demand'?
Sunday 14 March 2010 9.25pm
Without a doubt there is popular demand and management of the London Overground/GLA/TfL are well aware of it having been present throughout the two day opening and seeing how many people turned up in hope of a ticket.

What remains to be seen is if they can reconcile fufiling that demand whilst running a railway. For the moment though, sad to say, the past two days were the only two days but there again if enough people say how much they would have liked to do the walks then ultimatley nothing is impossible however far fetched the possibility might be to start with.

And if there were to be further walks I'll be there leading groups because it was as much fun for us as it was for the public. It was great to have such attentive groups.
Monday 15 March 2010 9.57am
It's great that there is so much interest in this subject, but Bryan perhaps you could explain what the strategy for advertising was. I heard whispers of this tour about six weeks ago. I Googled it, I checked the LT Museum website regularly and I even called the Brunel Museum! Eventually, I contacted someone at the LT Museum who said that they had been asked to process the tickets but that it was run by the Brunel. The lady I spoke to said that the info had been leaked on Twitter and had been bought pretty much as soon as they went on sale. My questions therefore are:

Why wasn't it advertised/made known from which venue tickets were to be bought?

Why wasn't it advertised on either the LT Museum website or on the Brunel website until it was too late?

Why weren't local people given preference or a proportion of tickets 'ring-fenced' for them?

I am sorry to go on and I am pleased that those who went enjoyed themselves, but that's no consolation for those of us that have a long-standing interest in subterranean London, the Underground network and local history generally.

I appreciate it's all academic now as it's done, but would be nice to know that lessons would be learned for future events. As Bryan says, it isn't likely to happen again and certainly not to the extent I'm sure it did over the weekend as there will be live tracks etc to contend with.
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