news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Lifts breaking, lights flickering in ‘revamped’ Greenwich foot tunnel

with 15 comments

So, after £11.5 million was spent on refurbishing the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, what’s it like now the new lifts are working?

Well, the light isn’t working, one of the glass windows has already been smashed, and you’ll have to wait a while for the lift….

When the lift comes, it takes an age to work properly…

…or it simply refuses to shift at all. What fun for all the family!

I ended up helping people carry buggies up the stairs on Sunday afternoon after the north side lift simply refused to work properly. From what I can gather, there’s a problem with the north lift where it resets itself and waits four or five minutes before moving. It’s not thought to have anything to do with the damage to the glass window – bringing to mind the possibility that the glass was smashed when someone got frustrated with the doors being closed but nothing moving…

Despite the millions spent on the project, internally the tunnel looks as bad as ever. The grilles in the roof on the south side are filthy, old signage remains in place, and the lighting is poor. The stairs are still surrounded by plywood, making it difficult for anyone trying to a get a buggy or a bike up them. Aside from the lift, the only obvious sign of improvement is where the narrow part of the tunnel on the north side (which masks World War II bomb damage) has been repainted.

I’m told the emergency help points don’t work properly – I didn’t check myself – but a sellotaped sign at the bottom of the stairwell (where there is next to no mobile reception) advises people to ring a costly 0845 number to report problems. The users of our lift tried pressing the emergency button inside, only to have operators repeatedly ask “are you stuck in the lift?”

The tunnel’s lift attendants are all being made redundant, but are being kept on site to check for problems. By the time an attendant arrived, the lift had started to move again. It happens a lot, we were told; with nine or 10 full breakdowns in the past week on the south side, and four or five on the north side.

The emergency buttons are answered by staff at Atlas Lifts rather than at Greenwich Council – so should you need police help in the tunnel, you’ll end up being patched through to a call centre. There’s also been problems with Atlas not recognising the Greenwich Foot Tunnel lifts as their responsibility, and asking attendants who report problems to provide a postcode before they can help.

Granted, the work’s not yet finished, but the problems with the lifts are the latest twist in a sorry tale, largely blamed on some nonsense about “hidden structures”. Contractors Balfour Beatty were replaced with Lakehouse earlier this year after a series of delays to a project that also includes the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, which reopened in a dreadful state before Christmas after a 15-month closure.

Written by Darryl

16 April, 2012 at 7:30 am

15 Responses

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  1. [...] 853 also takes a look. [...]

    Monday’s London Links

    16 April, 2012 at 10:35 am

  2. I don’t even know where to start with this comment but here goes. Apart form the glass doors it doesn’t look like anything has been done. And who thought glass doors in an isolated tunnel would be a good idea? Poor lighting, nothing cleaned, lifts braking down, why did they even bother with the works? At least the dome looks nice.


    16 April, 2012 at 11:03 am

  3. Blimey, if this is what ‘Royal’ Greenwich looks like now then I’d hate to see People’s Republic Greenwich.

    You wouldn’t get any of this in Kensington and Chelsea or Windsor and Maidenhead.

    Guy Barnett Formula

    16 April, 2012 at 11:28 am

  4. As an aside, I wonder how much all the new ‘Royal Borough of Greenwich’ bins that are now popping up everywhere cost…

    Nelson's Left Eye

    16 April, 2012 at 2:01 pm

  5. I read on another website that this was a bit rushed as there is a royal visit later this month as well as the marathon (presumably a lot of spectators will use the tunnel that morning?) so there was a need for ‘something’ to be finished even if, clearly, it’s not what we expected.

    As above, though – I didn’t notice any improvements to the tunnel itself and only 1 (south) lift was working.

    DLR should be free (and allow cyclists) between Cutty Sark & Island Gardens until this nonsense is sorted out. Not that you’ll see any of the mayoral candidates pay attention to our borough.


    16 April, 2012 at 2:09 pm

  6. I spoke to someone at the council last week and they said the issues were minor and could perhaps be solved by someone ‘shaking’ the lift?! Aside from the ongoing inconvenience, the customer service and handling of expectations by Greenwich Council has been shockingly poor.

    Gemma Callander

    16 April, 2012 at 2:49 pm

  7. South lift out of order this evening. The tunnel is such a sorry state…. Greenwich Council – sort it out…please!


    16 April, 2012 at 10:59 pm

  8. I am a cyclist that uses the foot tunnel daily to commute into work and like many over the months of refurbishment have endured lift closures and narrowing of stair ways making accessing tunnel entrances both stressful and unpleasant.
    Like most of us I have gritted my teeth in the hope that the end result will benefit the tunnel and all of us that use it pedestrians and cyclists alike. Unfortunately to witness such poorly thought out results at such an expense is not acceptable and I think the council has some serious questions to answer…

    A Bligh

    17 April, 2012 at 11:21 am

  9. [...] doors (when not smashed), but like a lot of people, I struggle to understand why they had to be closed for a year, and why the staircases are still covered [...]

  10. I wonder if the firm responsible for this “refurbishment” is the same one responsible for the lift “refurbishment” in my block. We now have a lift that constantly breaks down, whose door occasionally does not close properly, enabling you to reach out and touch the lift shaft wall while the lift is in progress and which contains a sign telling you to call the Council if you get stuck, despite the fact that you cannot actually get a mobile phone signal in the lift!


    17 April, 2012 at 5:55 pm

  11. If they installed leaky cables you would be able to get a signal underground.


    17 April, 2012 at 8:30 pm

  12. [...] finished by the Olympics. It doesn’t look like very much has happened at all since the lifts, which are still regularly broken, opened earlier this year. One question springs to mind – has the money run [...]

  13. [...] lifts appeared in Greenwich in 2012, but remain plagued by breakdowns. In August, seven people were treated by medics after an “unusual smell” at the tunnel [...]

  14. [...] foot tunnels (27 September 2012) A strange smell at the Greenwich Foot Tunnel (27 August 2012) Lifts breaking, lights flickering in ‘revamped’ Greenwich foot tunnel (16 April 2012) Christmas surprise – inside reopened Woolwich foot tunnel (22 December 2011) [...]

  15. […] Indeed, when the Woolwich Foot Tunnel reopened in December 2011 after at least a 15-month closure, the poor state of the tunnel demonstrated the difficulty the project was in. When Greenwich’s lifts reopened in early 2012, lights were failing and lifts kept breaking. […]

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