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Museum hopes to extend into Brunels' Thames launch shaft

TRUSTEES OF the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe, south-east London are waiting to hear how soon a planned extension can go ahead.

They hope to lease an empty launch shaft at the southern end of Marc Brunel's Thames Tunnel for the expansion, but it may be needed for work on London Underground's East London Line.

Contractors had until the end of the month to submit bids for the £900M main civils contract to upgrade and extend the line.

'Until the East London Line is contracted, London Underground cannot make a decision as contractors may need to use the space, ' explained museum trustee Alan Myers.

Once the contract is let, the trustees will apply to LU for a lease on the launch shaft. Funds will then be sought to develop plans for an education centre and museum extension inside the 15m diameter, 13m deep brick lined caisson shaft, designed and sunk by Marc and Isambard Brunel in 1825.

'This is the birthplace of tunnelling, ' said Myers. 'The Thames Tunnel is very much the starting point for IK Brunel's career.

This is where he learnt - often the hard way - about political lobbying and motivating men.'

Three bidders are left in the race for the East London Line contract.

Myers said initial discussions indicated it was unlikely the shaft would be needed for the work, but a firm guarantee was needed before the museum project could move forward.

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