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‘James Bond’ tourist attraction to snub London market

A scene from the James Bond film Goldfinger
The Kingsway Exchange Tunnels are thought to be the inspiration for 'Q Branch' in Ian Fleming's James Bond novels - Alamy

A developer seeking to turn London’s “James Bond tunnels” into a tourist attraction has announced plans to list on the Amsterdam stock market, in a blow to the City.

The London Tunnels, which owns the historic Kingsway Exchange Tunnels under Chancery Lane Tube station in the City, said it hopes to float on the Euronext exchange with a value of £130m.

The move will be seen as a snub to the London Stock Exchange (LSE) at a time when confidence in the City is wavering.

It follows multiple companies moving their listings overseas or opting to float elsewhere.

Xavier Rolet, a former chief executive of the LSE, this month called for a major overhaul of the struggling equities market, urging the next government to provide additional support.

The London Tunnels tourist attraction
The London Tunnels tourist attraction aims to cater to 3m visitors per year

The Kingsway Exchange Tunnels were built as a deep air-raid shelter during the Second World War but ended up being used as accommodation for troops and later as an operations centre for parts of MI6 and GCHQ, thought to be the inspiration for “Q Branch” in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.

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After the war, the tunnels were repurposed as a major Post Office telephone exchange and were the terminus point for the first transatlantic phone line. They also acted as a conduit for the “red phone” hotline used by the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

London Tunnels wants to transform the site – which has not been accessible to the public for 70 years – into a top tourist attraction that will cater to 3m visitors per year.

The company has said the renovated tunnels will offer “a combination of historical heritage experiences and a cultural, beautifully designed, multi-sensory, digital experience”.

Concept photos show modern museum spaces with model planes hanging from the ceiling and mocked-up wartime operation centres, as well as scenes of punters enjoying a drink in what would be London’s deepest underground bar.

Bosses have set out plans to open the site in 2027 and aim to raise £30m to fund preparatory work, including detailed feasibility and engineering studies, via a share sale in Amsterdam.

The project requires planning permission from both the City of London Corporation and Camden council, with the latter yet to make a decision.

Concept photos of the attraction show modern museum spaces with model planes hanging from the ceiling
Concept photos of the attraction show modern museum spaces with model planes hanging from the ceiling

On Monday, the company hailed Amsterdam as “the leading pan-European market” and said listing there was “in the best long-term interests of the company”.

Peter Curtin, the chairman of the London Tunnels, said: “The listing of the London Tunnels on the leading pan-European market will give investors the opportunity to acquire shares in what is likely to be the last major historical and heritage attraction that can be reopened in central London.

“The London Tunnels could be set to become one of London’s major tourist attractions, providing visitors with an exciting educational, cultural and heritage experience.”

Angus Murray, the chief executive of the London Tunnels, added: “We are delighted to announce the upcoming listing of our shares on Euronext Amsterdam.

“We believe a public listing of the London Tunnels is the logical next step, improving our ability to raise further capital over the coming years to support the company’s growth strategy and create long-term value.

“London is undoubtedly one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. It is one of the most visited cities in the world, with millions of visitors each year, all of whom we hope will be interested in visiting the tunnels.”