City Hall asked to probe Greenwich Council foot tunnels fiasco
City Hall officials have been asked to investigate the handling of Greenwich Council’s botched £11.5m redevelopment of the Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels, where work has been stalled for over a year.
Greenwich & Lewisham assembly member Len Duvall has referred the matter to auditors at the Greater London Authority to establish what went wrong with the project, which had been funded by the Government’s Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) before being switched to City Hall last year.
It’s emerged an HCA official signed off the project after a site visit in March 2011, handing the project over to Greenwich Council the following month, on the understanding work would be finished by September 2011.
The HCA stopped scrutinising the project after the site visit, and the matter was not looked at again until City Hall took over the HCA’s work in London in April 2012. Now Duvall has asked the authority’s audit panel and district auditor to investigate. The London Assembly’s budget and performance committee has also been asked to look at the issue.
Duvall’s move comes after campaigning from Greenwich Cyclists on the issue.
Both Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels remain in a poor state after the collapse of the project in late 2011, at around the time cabinet member Denise Hyland was blaming the problems at both tunnels on “hidden structures” which didn’t actually exist.
The council itself, which sacked the three contractors in charge of the job, admitted in October 2012 that there was “an unacceptable and deteriorating environment for users” in the tunnels.
Last November, it emerged Greenwich Council had previously told the HCA the work had been completed – even though that simply wasn’t the case, and that should have been clear on any site visit.
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.
In a letter to Duvall seen by this website, the GLA’s Housing and Land executive director David Lunts says “the project remains a concern for the GLA”, and says it is now in “regular dialogue” with the council as it struggles to complete the project.
No work has taken place at either tunnel for over a year, with no new contractors appointed to finish the job. Woolwich Foot Tunnel remains without lifts, Greenwich had new lifts fitted but they have been plagued by breakdowns.
Greenwich Council commissioned an independent report from John Willmoth into the fiasco six months ago. After completing a report into the council’s handling of big projects in general, he has yet to report back on the foot tunnels issue.
11.20am update: Len Duvall has told this site:
“What took place over the work on the foot tunnels work should not have happened.
Greenwich are learning from this experience internally and I look forward to the publication of the second of John Wilmoth’s independent reports examining what happened in this case more closely.
My intervention is to make the GLA take its responsibilities seriously, not just ‘shrug their shoulders’ when public money from bodies that have since become part of the GLA is involved. There are lessons for us to learn at the GLA and I hope that Greenwich Council are equally keen to ensure that events like this don’t occur in the future. Most importantly Greenwich need to press on with the completion of the works – monitored closely by the GLA – to ensure that both foot tunnels are accessible to everyone.”