Hot off the press from the London Assembly, a written answer from mayor Boris Johnson.
A little recap. In May 2012, the mayor announced plans for a Dutch-style road scheme in Greenwich, to assist cyclists and pedestrians. Except he hadn’t told the council, nor had the council picked up the phone to ask what he was on about.
Seven months later, a TfL executive said it was waiting for plans from Greenwich Council. A couple of weeks later, Greenwich’s cabinet member for bins and cycling said there were “no definitive plans”.
Clear as mud, then.
Go Dutch development of Greenwich town centre
Question No: 8 / 2013
There have been a number of contradictory statements about who is responsible for bringing forward the flagship walking and cycling development in Greenwich that you announced shortly after your re-election. Will you clarify your promise to create a flagship walking and cycling development in Greenwich?
Written response from the Mayor
I am encouraged by the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s statement that they are taking forward an “ambitious action plan” for cycling in the Borough. My Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, himself a Greenwich resident, is arranging meetings with the Council to discuss its vision and how this can fit into our own equally ambitious plans for cycling in London. We do not wish to pre-empt the Royal Borough’s plans.
TfL is also working closely with the Royal Borough of Greenwich to plan and deliver a new Cycle Superhighway through Greenwich. Building on the lessons learned from the first Cycle Superhighways, and from the ongoing Better Junctions review, CS4 will be built to ambitious new standards.
TfL is also keen to work with RB Greenwich to explore how major new development areas such as the Greenwich peninsular [sic] and Charlton could be developed with the ‘Go Dutch’ cycling principles’ approach in mind.
You’ll see that nothing in his answer specifically mentions Greenwich town centre – just the woolly answer about Greenwich Council’s borough-wide “ambitious action plan”.
But the mention of his new cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, is intriguing. When the west Greenwich-based journalist’s controversial appointment was revealed last month, I wondered just how he’d cope negotiating with those he’s aimed brickbats at in the past. I’m barely one to talk here, but had he burned too many bridges locally?
It seems not. So it’s good to hear he’s going to take on cycling in Greenwich – which will involve dealing with councillors he’s branded as “forty-watt burghers”.
What’s even better is that I hear those same burghers are more than happy to meet him – with the council’s transport scrutiny committee looking at ways to get him involved. If he comes along for a meeting, be sure to bring some popcorn.
It’s also good to see another commitment to build Cycle Superhighway 4 (from London Bridge to Woolwich) through the borough – despite the neighbouring route being chopped short at New Cross. It may be a challenge through Greenwich, probably the narrowest section of CS4, but as the road widens through Charlton and Woolwich, will we see proper segregated lanes like the one above, planned for Stratford?
The mention of getting involved in plans for the peninsula and Charlton riverfront is also promising – but none of this should distract from the original promise to sort something out in Greenwich town centre.
(For later readers: The tunnel reopened – without lifts – just before Christmas 2011. The signs still said it was closed though. Read on for a tale of woe and secrecy, if you like.) (Hello LFGSS forum.)
Woolwich Foot Tunnel will now be closed until spring 2012, pushing its reopening a year beyond schedule, according to notices placed at the shut-down river crossing by Greenwich Council.
Work began in April 2009 on both the Woolwich tunnel and its sister crossing at Greenwich as part of a refurbishment programme originally costed at £11.5 million, with the job due to be finished within two years.
But the work at both tunnels, which is being carried by contractors Balfour Beatty, has been beset by problems and delays.
While both tunnels were meant to stay open while work was taking place, the Woolwich tunnel closed altogether last autumn, firstly because of problems with its stairs, and later because of “additional works to the crown of the tunnel”, according to Greenwich cabinet member Denise Hyland, who said in March that the tunnel would re-open in June.
Pedestrians and cyclists at Woolwich are able to use the Woolwich Ferry during daytimes, with walkers also able to pay to use the Docklands Light Railway as an alternative.
The council’s website still claims the Woolwich tunnel will reopen in August 2011, and no news of the delay has been published in its weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time.
Greenwich Foot Tunnel has been closed at night since February while its lifts are being replaced, following a period of regular sudden closures and a period when it was shut altogether because the old lifts kept breaking down while the stairs were out of service. There is no alternative for cyclists at Greenwich, although pedestrians can pay to use the Docklands Light Railway or a limited river boat service.
There is no news at the moment on whether delays have also affected work at Greenwich.
Meanwhile, the London Assembly’s transport committee chair has formally complained to Greenwich Council after it failed to respond to her questions on the foot tunnel repairs.
Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon first contacted leader Chris Roberts in 2009 on the issue, only to receive a reply refusing to answer, and telling her to ask her Labour colleague Len Duvall for information.
A further letter in February 2011 received no response, and nor did a letter to council chief executive Mary Ney – whose £190,000 job is supposed to be apolitical – in April 2011.
She said: “The record of Greenwich Council in upgrading these tunnels and keeping users updated has been appalling.
“The situation over Greenwich Foot Tunnel has been bad enough, but they have taken incompetence to new heights over the Woolwich Foot Tunnel.
“How can a council say on its website that a public highway will finally be re-opened by the end of this month and then have signage at the entrance to the tunnel saying it will be another six months before it is actually open to the public?
“There would be uproar if motorists were treated like this. The fact that Greenwich Council think they can treat pedestrians and cyclists in such a poor manner says everything about the low priority they give to walking and cycling.”
She added that she was “appalled” that her own enquiries into the issue had been ignored, and was prepared to take her complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.
Greenwich Foot Tunnel’s full reopening has been delayed once again, with users facing night time closures and no lifts until September, it has emerged.
Work on the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, which has been completely closed since last year, will also not be finished until August.
There has been no formal announcement of the delay, and there are no notices at the Greenwich tunnel to explain the latest situation to the thousands of walkers and cyclists who use it each day.
Instead, Greenwich Council has buried the news on its website, explaining the six-month delay at Greenwich is down to “additional works and problems with materials used in the repairs”.
There is no explanation for why the works at Woolwich are taking five months longer than planned.
Work on both tunnels should have finished in March, but the completion date was then pushed back to June, before being moved to August and September without any announcement.
While operated by Greenwich Council, the two tunnels are used by walkers and cyclists from across London – and particularly by cyclists from neighbouring Lewisham borough.
London Assembly transport committee chair Caroline Pidgeon wrote to Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts in February asking for explanations about why the refurbishment project was taking so long. Cllr Roberts has not replied. In 2009, Roberts suggested she direct her questions to a Labour member of the assembly.
In April, the Liberal Democrat politician sent a follow-up letter to Greenwich chief executive Mary Ney – but eight weeks later, the £190,000/year council boss has also not responded. (See both letters here.)
Pidgeon said: “For four months the leader of Greenwich Council has repeatedly failed to answer any of my questions I have put to him about the fiasco of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.
“Does he really think the incompetence and false promises over the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels can be swept under the carpet?
“Greenwich Council should come clean and provide a firm date for when pedestrians and cyclists can finally return to using the two tunnels 24 hours a day.
“A full explanation and apology for the delays would also be welcome.”
The £11.5m project includes repairing the tunnels and stairwells, installing new CCTV and replacing the 19-year-old lifts with models that do not need attendants. It has been beset by difficulties, including the complete closure of the Woolwich tunnel due to problems with the stairwell and almost-daily closures of the Greenwich tunnel due to lift problems.