(If you’ve come here via a search engine, you should find the current foot tunnel status here.)
853 exclusive: Greenwich Council has officially closed Greenwich Foot Tunnel to the public following a series of lift failures, leaving pedestrians and cyclists to pay for detours.
The tunnel to the Isle of Dogs is undergoing major renovation works, along with its sister crossing at Woolwich, which are due to be completed by April.
But with the stairs taken out of service in September, users have had to rely on increasingly unreliable lifts, which now appear to have broken down altogether. The Woolwich tunnel closed in November because of problems with the stairs while the lifts were being replaced, and is not due to reopen until March.
Greenwich tunnel users are now greeted with a public notice stating the tunnel was formally closed to the public from 4 February “because of the likelihood of danger to the public (and the need to carry out emergency lift repair works)” for 21 days, or until the work is completed.
Pedestrians can use the DLR between Cutty Sark and Island Gardens, but cyclists either have to pay to use the Thames Clippers boat service to Masthouse Terrace Pier – if it is running – or take a detour via Tower Bridge, Rotherhithe Tunnel or Woolwich Ferry.
Despite this notice being dated 4 February, no announcement has been made about it on the Greenwich Council website since then, nor has it appeared in its weekly newspaper, Greenwich Time. The council has been using its Twitter feed to give day-to-day updates on the tunnel’s status without referring to any closure order.
The last update to the council’s telephone information line (020 8853 2988) was on Monday, and merely states that both tunnels are closed without giving a planned reopening date.
To make matters worse, work is now running behind schedule. Work on the stairwells at the Greenwich tunnel was meant to be finished in January to enable the lifts, themselves only installed in 1992, to be replaced.
Liberal Democrat Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon wrote to Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts last week about the unreliable service in the foot tunnel.
“The foot tunnel is an absolutely key component in the London cycle and pedestrian network… the closure of the tunnel has a significant effect on people’s ability to cross the river,” she said in the letter.
“Many people are angry that the tunnel has been closed with no warning because this often compels people to use more dangerous routes, such as the Rotherhithe Tunnel, and gives people no time or warning to plan alternative, safer routes to their destination.”
6.45PM UPDATE: Greenwich Council did not respond to a request for comment sent to them early on Thursday morning. However, its Twitter feed confirmed the story was true, in a roundabout way:
The “end of next week” is, coincidentally, at the end of the 21-day closure period for the tunnel. The council’s foot tunnels web page has also been changed, although users have to scroll down to discover news of the tunnel closures.
10AM FRIDAY UPDATE: London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon has attacked Greenwich Council’s “incompetence” in its handling of the closures, while a letter from council leader Chris Roberts refusing to answer questions on the foot tunnel revamp has also emerged. More at The Scoop. Docklands 24 has also followed the story up (and linked back to me, which is lovely of them.)
2:15PM FRIDAY UPDATE: Greenwich Council has released this statement: “Greenwich Council is carrying out a major investment programme to renew the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels, which are around 100 years old.
“The work was planned in consultation with cyclists, traders and tunnel users and a schedule of work was put in place to enable pedestrians and cyclists to use the lifts while the stairs are being renewed, and vice versa. Alternative means of crossing the river were put in place for all but a few hours each week.
“Regrettably, the Council has now had to take the decision to close the Greenwich Foot Tunnel temporarily while refurbishment work on the stairs is completed.
“Greenwich Council apologises for the inconvenience caused to users. We wish to stress that this is very much a temporary situation with the newly refurbished stairs expected to reopen by the end of February.”