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.