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BT denies cable fire was in A-bomb exchange

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While BT was tackling its underground cable fire yesterday, the burning issue for many Web watchers was whether the blaze was in an old telephone exchange buried deep below Manchester and designed to withstand a twenty-kiloton atom bomb.

The Register was flooded with emails yesterday from people convinced that the fire had broken out in what is known as the "Guardian Underground Telephone Exchange".

According to this fascinating insight into Manchester's Cold War past the "Guardian" was built in 1954 some 34m underground and was designed to withstand a Hiroshima-size atomic explosion and ensure that communications could continue in the event of Manchester being flattened.

Yesterday, BT officials denied that the fire was anywhere near the underground exchange.

Today, though, a spokesman told The Register: "The tunnel in which the fire broke out was built at the same time as the former underground 'Guardian' exchange - in the 50s.

"The exchange no longer exists - it was decommissioned in the early 70s and all the gear removed.

"The tunnel is and always has been a cable tunnel between the two BT (then GPO) buildings - Dial House and Rutherford House."

No one at the telco was available at the time of writing to say if the tunnel was part of the bomb-proof underground structure. ®

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