(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.