Woolwich foot tunnel now closed until 2012

(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.


  1. We’ve been here before haven’t we.

    What a shambles.

    Do Balfour Beatty have to pay non-completion fines?

  2. Why one minute was the Woolwich Tunnel to reopen August 2011 and the next minute Spring 2012? On behalf of all cyclists and walkers please can someone either Greenwich Council or the contractors give a proper detailed explanation as to why it is taking so long, and a proper timetable for at least part of the tunnel to reopen so we can use it.
    Its nice that we can use the Woolwich Ferry but its not a 24 hour service (unlike the tunnel)

  3. Liam

    I think the answer to the question is that it was never actually such a quick change in the situation, but instead Greenwich Council trying to keep secret problems that have probably been brewing over many months.

    Why can’t this council just have a honest conversation with local residents? Their secrecy is breathtaking. I don’t know any other London Borough that such a bad record as them. If a contract has been badly managed, if something has gone wrong, just being open about it. At some point people will eventually find out!



  4. Up until Friday 26th August the Greenwich Council website was still stating that the Woolwich Foot Tunnel would open in August.

    Now it seems Greenwich Council have finally updated their website – although the information is far from helpful.

    This is what Greenwich Council’s website says as of today:

    “Contractors working on the major renewal programme for Greenwich’s two foot tunnels have confirmed that the Woolwich tunnel remains closed.
    Regrettably, the additional unplanned repairs at Woolwich make it impossible for the lifts to be used by the public while the stairs are being renewed.
    Information on re-opening times will be published here when confirmed. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

  5. Have been using the ferry as an alternative for a good few months now there has been zero activity going on on foot tunnel I have heard from a ferry operative that the labour has been displaced elswhere on other projects. Im ashamed to be a greenwich resident, theres a an old joke about beeing treated like a mushroom “kept in the dark and fed on s**t” simply discracefull shame on greenich council….

  6. If there was a tube station at the bottom of the stairs/lifts the job would have been finished years ago .
    Because it is used by cyclists and pedestrians (second class users) for free they seem to think its O.K. to drag there feet .
    I don’t even live near Greenwich I live in Dagenham but I take my kids to Waterfront swimming pool in South Woolwich from time to time ,If the tunnel was operating as it should ,what an adventure it would be to take my kids down there and walk across to the south side .
    Shame on you Woolwich council .

  7. I had to use the Woolwich Foot tunnel last night; it is a disgrace especially now the Olympics are here. Has all worked just stopped? Are there kickbacks to Greenwich council people? I do not understand, it was old but in working order before. Now there are no lifts it is a mess down there. Someone should be held responsible for this!!!

  8. Is the Woolwich Foot Tunnel really now open? The council website implies that the stairs are, but I don’t trust it. See http://www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/info/200102/walking/693/foot_tunnels
    I went north of the river on 21st July, taking my bike on the ferry. I returned after the ferry had closed for the night. Stupidly, I assumed that the foot tunnel was still open after it had reopened last December. However, the hoardings prevented any access.

    Incidentally, I would have then used the expensive cable way to get home, but that shuts at 9pm every night! Incredible. I would have thought that it would have appealed to people leaving evening concerts at the O2 Dome. So I had to cycle all the way to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to get back to Eltham.

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