Greenwich Foot Tunnel is now officially closed

(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.

The lack of information on the tunnel closure has been criticised by local Labour MP Nick Raynsford as well as Ken Livingstone’s running-mate for the London mayoralty, Val Shawcross.

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:!/Greenwichcouncl/statuses/38270557472423936

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.)

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.”

More stories and comment on Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels.


  1. How long before “cuts” will give them the excuse they need to shut one or both foot tunnels?

  2. Another crossing in East & South East London down. How are we supposed to be mobile any more in this part of London??????

  3. The cuts will lead to the new lifts not having attendants – they’ll be open for 24hrs but be unmanned, with CCTV doing the job instead.

  4. Bloody hell. It’s lucky I don’t use the tunnel much!

    What is the point of having a council run paper if it doesn’t include important info such as the closure of a major link for cyclists and pedestrians to east London?

  5. The whole thing has been a shambles – at the very least, the Council should have put alternative arrangements in place for pedestrians and cyclists when the tunnel has been closed. Instead, pedestrians have to pay out of their own pocket to cross the river via DLR and cyclists are barred even from that.

  6. The twitter updates have been worse than useless. I saw a few last month but after that, nothing. It would be better to have no updates rather than the occasional one.

  7. Bah – I loved those lift attendants and their little transistor radios. But CCTV is always much better than having an actual human around. Everyone knows that. They increase safety – it’s good to know that if you’re mugged or stabbed, grainy footage of it will probably exist.

  8. Me too – always friendly and probably the last council staff to wear proper uniforms too, until they were replaced by hi-vis geezers holding private conversations on their phones.

  9. The sad thing about all this is the cavalier way in which the Council have run the whole thing. Right at the beginning when the foot tunnel closures were mooted people were asking how they would get from A to B, especially cyclists.

    Can you imagine if this was one of the road tunnels instead? Talk about treating walkers and cyclists as second class citizens.

  10. As a previous user of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel I then switched my route to travel via the Woolwich tunnel. I now notice that despite previous comments the ‘official’ sign on the lifts now says that Woolwich will be shut until Spring 2012 and not March 2011

  11. As far as Tower Hamlets is concerned the tunnel might well not exist, I never see any information in their weekly “newspaper” about the closure fiasco.

  12. I went over to Woolwich to investigate the situation a few weekends ago – I’m no architect but the Woolwich foot tunnel certainly doesn’t look like its a couple of weeks from reopening… I agree that its amazing that Greenwich’s website is noteable for its absence of information on the subject. Shameful really

  13. […] a few of those new readers have stuck around. If you’re one of them, a belated welcome.) 2. Greenwich Foot Tunnel is now officially closed (17 February) (It’s not any more, but there’s still a huge demand for information about […]

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