Before Greenwich councillors all trooped off to knock back the wine on Wednesday night, the tricky subject of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels came up.

Naturally, it wasn’t an elected politician who brought it up – but Anthony Austin of Greenwich Cyclists. He asked just what the hell is going on with a project that should have been finished this spring, but now looks like it’s running a year behind schedule, with one tunnel liftless and shut at night, and the other completely closed.

“Who at Greenwich Council is managing the refurbishment of the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels, and what was the original stated schedule of works and by how much has it been delayed?,” he asked in a written question.

Cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and skills Denise Hyland responded:

“Firstly, I would like to apologise for the continued inconvenience to the public as a result of the partial closure of the tunnels and the shutdown of the lift service.

“The works to the foot tunnels are being carried out by contractors and consultants, whp also manage the works on a day-to-day basis, engaged by the Director of Regeneration, Enterprise and Skills. The original programme for the works as known at the time for these century-old structures was estimated to be complete in the spring of 2011. Additional works and site complexities will mean the tunnels are unlikely to open fully before early 2012.

“The funding for the project has come from Government and no council funds are involved.”

Mr Austin then asked a follow-up question, the response to which you can hear here… .

“Can I say – absolute apology on behalf of the council to pedestrians and cyclists, because although the tunnels are open [sic], they haven’t had the proper lifts functioning in the way that they should. So, er, y’know, complete apologies for that, and we are working hard for a quick resolution.”

There’s no mention of Woolwich Foot Tunnel at all in that statement, which gives the impression that Cllr Hyland believes it is still open. And what on earth are these “hidden structures”? Shouldn’t one of the only councils in the country to publish its own weekly newspaper be telling us what’s happening?

It’s also interesting to hear the tunnels now described as a “heritage project”. The Woolwich Foot Tunnel celebrates its centenary next year, the Greenwich tunnel opened in 1902. Yet when Transport for London started refurbishing the Blackwall Tunnel, built in 1897, that wasn’t called a “heritage project”. TfL’s work there is running ahead of schedule, while Greenwich’s work is now a year late.

So we’re still no further ahead with understanding just what the hell is going on in those foot tunnels. With the Greenwich tunnel’s stairwells looking largely untouched – and the Woolwich tunnel’s southern portal boarded up and deserted – what are the odds on the project being finished by the Olympics?

12 replies on “Foot tunnels latest: The mystery of the ‘hidden structures’”

  1. mmmmmm hidden structures, very interesting indeed, maybe that is why it is in the hands of the English Heritage?

  2. As the questioner asked, I’d like to see the project plans for this work. I am worried that the stairs will be closed again before the works are complete and, if so, what arrangements the Council will make this time for cyclists (and pedestrians) if/when the lifts aren’t working.

  3. Apart from a brief story when work began on the Greenwich tunnel last year Tower Hamlet’s weekly “newspaper” East End Life has made no mention of the progress of the renovation works, as far as the council is concerned the tunnel just doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

  4. I was wondering if you were aware that the lift operators are going to be cut as part of these plans. There is going to be lots of CCTV and a PA system (to tell people to stop doing whatever they are doing wrong I guess) but no one actually on site.

  5. If that is the case and they don’t keep the operators this might explain why it is taking so long to get on with the work because of having to put all the equipment in for CCTV. Not that I agree, I have been down there and I like the idea of someone being there, for me it is quite scary but knowing someone is at the other end makes me feel safe. CCTV will not help.

  6. I went through the tunnel with my bike in early October. As I was heaving it up the steps at the Greenwich side I saw a notice about blasting. There happened to be a man in a hard hat and high-vis clothing around (though there seemed to be only one such person in the whole tunnel), so I asked him what was going on. He said there was a lot of dust/rust/debris behind all the lift mechanism that is having to be shot-blasted away. I couldn’t hear any such activity — maybe it happens only when the tunnel is closed. He certainly gave the impression that the work wouldn’t be finished any time soon.

  7. You are probably right Chris that seems to be the ongoing feeling of a lot of things in the borough not just the Tunnel..

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