A FICTIONAL Reading underground picture has prompted a wave of enthusiasm online – so much so people are now buying merchandise.

The Chronicle previously told you about a Reading-born PhD researcher who created a tube map of a fictional Reading underground network.

You have been liking it, sharing it, expressing your amusement (and sometimes bemusement) and discussing it with your families and friends.

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Things have now moved on to another level.

People are buying merchandise for the underground network, created by digital railway systems researcher Joe Preece, which we should make double clear – does not exist.

Things have moved at a rapid pace, with Mr Preece setting up an online shop just a day after the tweet went up and guesting on radio stations.

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Within 24 hours of the shop going live, he has sold four posters, two mugs and two sets of coasters. This has generated revenue of more than £100 and profit of £15.24.

Twenty per cent of the profits will go to a fund to help NHS staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Preece said: “I am glad to hear folks are enjoying it. Hopefully we can continue to boost this number.

“It’s also great for me personally at the moment, as I’m between my PhD funding ending and my job as a research fellow starting.”

The online shop features more than 60 different types of merchandise with the fictional tube map on it, from T-shirts to mugs to duvet covers, and even a Reading Undergound shower curtain.

The unofficial Reading Underground map itself features seven lines and 54 stations.

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Mr Preece, who grew up in Tilehurst, shared the tongue-in-cheek creation on Twitter on April Fool’s Day, writing: “Plans for the Reading Underground, we’re just £15bn short of funding.

“So if anybody wants to throw some coins into the kitty, let us know.”

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Plans for the Reading Underground, we're just £15bn short of funding. So if anybody wants to throw some coins into the kitty, let us know. <a href=”https://twitter.com/ReadingCouncil?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@ReadingCouncil</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/rdgchronicle?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@rdgchronicle</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/BBCBerkshire?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@BBCBerkshire</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/bcrre?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@bcrre</a> <a href=”https://t.co/erhYKAe2Kq”>pic.twitter.com/erhYKAe2Kq</a></p>— Joe Preece (@joedpreece) <a href=”https://twitter.com/joedpreece/status/1245264555384717312?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>April 1, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

We spoke to Mr Preece to find out the thinking behind the tongue-in-cheek creation.

We also chatted to a few Reading councillors to find out how challenging it would be to introduce a tube network, what the council is doing to enhance transport in the town and what the dream transport scheme would be if money was no object.

See our story from yesterday for more on that.

Reading is, of course, now on the London Underground map, with stopping services currently running between London Paddington and Reading by TFL Rail ahead of the Elizabeth line opening.