There was a worrying incident at the Greenwich Foot Tunnel on Friday evening, with seven people taken sick after reports of an “unusual smell”. With the shambolic refurbishment work still taking place in the tunnel, all kinds of possibilities emerged. Thankfully, nobody needed hospital treatment and the tunnel reopened later in the evening – but what happened remains a mystery.
The only clue comes from a commenter at greenwich.co.uk, who reported “a heavy smell like ‘skunk’ in the lifts and tunnel”. Perfectly plausible.
But according to Greenwich Council, nothing happened. Councillors were told it was a false alarm, with local representative Matt Pennycook passing the message on…
Those photos of emergency services at the foot tunnel? That BBC News story, containing a statement from Scotland Yard? You imagined it. There was no incident, see?
Obviously, there was an incident – even if it was people made ill by the whiff from weapons-grade jazz cigarettes. But the response to it was classic Greenwich Council communications policy; refusing to acknowledge the blatantly obvious in case it damaged the council’s reputation. Whatever the smell was on Friday night, it was soon replaced by a stench of bullshit.
Indeed, councillors like Matt Pennycook should be challenging this sort of thing, rather than meekly passing it on – but sadly, too many Greenwich councillors see themselves as representatives of the authority rather than representatives of the people.
For a start, if it was someone skinning up down there, then why were they able to do that in the first place? There’s now no staff in the tunnel, with the lifts now operated by the public. Has safety been compromised in an attempt to save cash?
I had a look at the tunnel on Sunday. There were no staff there, although council wardens were hanging around Cutty Sark Gardens looking like plums, overseeing that strange water feature that looks like a leaky water main. Inside, the tunnel’s still as filthy as ever, with outdated signage and broken lighting, although a chicane’s been put in to stop cycling in there.
The refurbishment of the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels – paid for by an £11.5million government grant – was meant to be finished by the Olympics. It doesn’t look like very much has happened at all since the lifts, which are still regularly broken, opened earlier this year. One question springs to mind – has the money run out?
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