When we asked Son of Bucharest Life what he fancied doing yesterday – a gloriously sunny Sunday – we had a vague idea that it might involve the Bucharest metro. After all, it usually does. Even we, however, were taken aback when he said: ‘Let’s go and take a look at the abandoned metro tunnel.’
Until that moment we had no idea that Bucharest had any abandoned metro tunnels.
How little we know.
Off we went then (on the metro, of course) to Lujerului in the west of the city. Crossing the busy Bulevardul Iuliu Maniu/Pasajul Lujerului intersection, we walked north for about 100 metres along Strada Fabricii until we saw a raised walkway that links up with Soseaua Virtutii. The entrance to the abandoned metro tunnel is clearly visible from the walkway. On this, the northern side of the tunnel, even some of the track remains:
The tunnel was built in the late 1970s to allow rolling stock to get into the metro system at the Ciurel depot, located undergound just past Semanatoarea (today Petrache Poenaru) station. (When the first part of the Bucharest metro opened in 1979, Semanatoarea was the end of the line and Ciurel the only depot on the system).
In order to get the metro carriages underground they were brought by freight train along a CFR railway line as far as the now defunct Cotroceni Station. There, they were lifted onto the metro tracks and taken into the tunnel (which, by the way, runs for a very short distance alongside the Lujerului traffic underpass: you can see it on your right if you are travelling north) before surfacing on the other side of Bulevardul Iuliu Maniu (then Bulevardul Pacii) alongside Strada Fabricii. It then headed into Semanatoarea, at the time a huge industrial complex.
The track then dived underground again and into the Ciurel depot via an entrance just north of a small rugby stadium (and which is today on fenced-off land and totally inaccessible). Until the M2 line opened in 1986 (and the IMGB depot with it) all metro trains were brought underground via Ciurel.
Four things to note.
1. Until the tunnel was completed metro trains had to get to the Ciurel depot via the old industrial tracks which ran on the surface. Google Earth makes it possible to clearly pick out the route they took between the blocks.
2. The current Cotroceni Station – opened in the early 1960s when the Semanatoarea industrial plant was built – is not the original Gara Cotroceni. That was in fact a far more elegant affair a mile or so up the road and was used by the Romanian royal family. Part of it survives, and is used as an entrance to Cotroceni Palace, official residence of the Romanian president.
3. It has been said before, but is worth mentioning again that there is a vast amount of unused transport infrastructure in and around Bucharest which – with minimal investment – could form the basis for a viable and genuinely useful suburban rail network. See here for more (in Romanian).
4. While the depot at Ciurel is now more or less unused, it is apparently in full working order and home to a number of old Bucharest metro trains. We think Metrorex should organise open days, much as Acton Depot does. They would be very popular: it can’t be just us who find such things fascinating.
Or maybe it is?