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Sci-Tech

The Underline concept turns forgotten tunnels into walkways, cycle paths and shops

An award-winning proposal would reclaim the disused subways beneath London, with every footstep generating energy.

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The London Underline would turn abandoned tunnels into a bustling network of walkways, shops and other interesting places. Gensler

Going underground could get more interesting with a new idea to reclaim the dark and silent tunnels beneath our city streets. The London Underline would turn disused subway tunnels into a subterranean network of walkways, cycle paths and even shops, with every footstep generating the power to keep the lights on.

The proposal, conceived by design firm Gensler, was named Best Conceptual Project at this year's London Planning Awards.

Cyclists and pedestrians would head underground by stepping into tube stations, then would ride or walk along the refitted tunnels. The tunnels would be paved with Pavegen, a surface that converts footfalls into energy.

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The proposed London Underline would have space for pedestrians and cyclists. Gensler

Concept art shows hip young things milling around in the bustling tunnels, eating and drinking and even checking their phones. A phone and data signal would be essential in this day and age -- we're not animals -- and with Wi-Fi already available on the tube it shouldn't be too hard to find bars underground.

The concept pictures also show cyclists travelling the tunnels on their "Boris bikes", bicycles which can be hired and dropped off at various points around London. Although the bikes are named after Mayor of London Boris Johnson, the cycle hire scheme actually began life under previous incumbent Ken Livingstone. Perhaps they should be called "Kenny-farthings".

The underground paths would almost certainly be safer for cyclists than London's congested roads.

The Underline would open up forgotten tube tunnels, exchanges, stations and reservoir chambers. Routes could include the disused Jubilee Line tunnel linking Charing Cross with Green Park, or stretches of tunnel around Stockwell and Goodge Street. It could also include the empty Piccadilly Line tunnel running south from Holborn to the closed Aldwych station, used as a location in "V for Vendetta", "28 Weeks Later", "Sherlock" and many other movies and TV shows.

Underground bomb shelters have already been cleverly turned to new purpose in the form of subterranean hydroponic farms. Run by Growing Underground (part of the Zero Carbon Food company), the project aims to grow crops in the most environmentally friendly way possible, recycling water and relying on a closed environment to cut down on wasteful heating and harmful pesticides.