‘Contractual issues’ now delaying Greenwich foot tunnels

Problems with contractors are the latest delay holding up refurbishment of the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels, it was revealed at a council meeting earlier this week.

An £11.5m programme to revamp the two tunnels, which began in April 2010, was supposed to be finished well before this summer’s Olympic Games, but visitors instead found the two tunnels filthy, covered in hoardings, and with an unreliable lift service (with none at all at Woolwich).

Asked at Tuesday’s meeting whether the money had run out, cabinet member Denise Hyland said the budget was “considered sufficient to complete the project, subject to the contractual issues being resolved with the contractors involved in the first phase of the works”.

However, her written answer did not elaborate on the contractual issues involved.

Original contractors Dean & Dyball, part of Balfour Beatty, were replaced late last year with Lakehouse, the council’s regular contractor for construction works.

Currently the Greenwich Foot Tunnel is open with lifts – which regularly break – and the Woolwich tunnel is open without lifts, although access to it is very hard to find.

Click here for Denise Hyland’s full answer and the written public questions and answers from Tuesday’s meeting, which I couldn’t make. Neither of the borough’s newspapers bothered to attend either, but a full report should appear on greenwich.co.uk soon.


  1. Its also a pity that the person who asked the question wasn’t present to ask a verbal supplementary question!!

  2. Work on the northern side has been at a standstill for weeks, if not months. The dome is shrouded in plastic sheeting and looks a mess. Word is that all the available glass panels were used on the Greenwich side, obviously to make that look pretty in time for the Olympics. I put a request into Greenwich Council two weeks ago for an update on the refurbishment, and so far I have heard nothing. Presumably no further work will take place until the “contractual issues” have been resolved. Are we talking weeks, months or years? I doubt Greenwich Council has the foggiest idea.

  3. Mary – mortgages don’t pay themselves, unfortunately…

    But it’s a pity elected councillors aren’t asking questions on this. I hear they didn’t on Tuesday.

  4. I think it would have been possible for you to ask someone to ask a supplementary for you if you weren’t there – I have known that happen in the past.
    Councillors have other places they can ask more detailed questions – at meetings which are also open to the public. When I have chaired scutiny panels I have always made sure I had a word with people who turned up to see if the issues they had come to hear about were going to be covered – and try and get them advice and information if they weren’t.
    But there are lots of issues of protocol here as well – I guess it has all evolved for a reason, mostly to do with efficiency, but ….. I know what you are going to say!

  5. Mary Mills was the best scrutiny panel chair I came across when I was a councillor and I suspect that her open style upset the leadership and led to her losing her job in 2008. Former councillor Paul Tyler on the other hand was a dire chair who would barely let other councillors participate, let alone members of the public, but he managed to hold on to his post.

  6. Your assessment of Mary Mills may well be true Paul, but Darryl’s comment is more to the point. This is a project costing £11.5m which is well overdue and shows no signs of getting anywhere near completion. Elected councillors should be asking questions, not relying on members of the public to do it for them. Mary, if you can explain how protocol issues have led to effiency here I feel certain we’ll all be glad to hear how.

  7. Sorry – I didn’t mean about efficiency in getting the tunnel fixed – but in getting business in council meetings dealt with.

  8. Yes, I meant that too Mary. Business in council meetings for residents representatives should be about asking questions, sometimes awkward ones that annoy the leadership, and getting them answered as satisfactorily as possible. Not necessarily waiting for the..ah.. ‘appropriate’ time or place.

  9. Oh, come on – you have to be a bit strategic about this. It depends if you want to give the impression that you are doing something, or if you want to get a real result.

  10. “It depends if you want to give the impression that you are doing something, or if you want to get a real result.”

    Why is it an either or question? At the moment we have neither the impression that we’re getting results nor are we getting results. We should have both.

    If a question was tabled about the foot tunnel would it not be reasonable for those responsible to come prepared to answer the questions that will be asked in response? I mean it’s not really rocket science to guess what answers people want.

    What’s going been delivered so far and what remains to be delivered.?
    What’s been spent so far?
    What’s the project spend and timelines to completion?
    What are the current issues and risks to delivery?

    As a project manager in the private sector, if I can’t answer those questions accurately off the top of my head whenever asked I’d lose my job.

  11. “As a project manager in the private sector, if I can’t answer those questions accurately off the top of my head whenever asked I’d lose my job.”

    Ah Mr. Ree, The number of times I’ve heard this sentiment I’m amazed anyone has a job in the private sector. I appreciate these are relatively good signs that you’re on top of your game but seriously people don’t often get fired in the private sector for not having the correct answers. I mean G4S is in the provate sector isn’t it! So are the construction companies that created Wembley (years late). Its an image, an illusion that many like to believe.

    In reality its no more true than the suggestion that corruption rather than incompetence is responsible for the lack of openness in council activity. Sadly like so many of us they have yet to learn that its better to own up to your mistakes than it is to try and conceal them.

    All of this gets us no closer to the reason that the tunnel is in its current state or when it will be complete.

  12. Ahh Darren but you’re wrong. I worked in a team with 4 project managers at the start of the year. There’s two of us left now after two got the axe for not being up to scratch. Maybe that’s how it is in some companies – but that’s not how it is in the industry I work in.

    BTW – it’s interesting to note that the examples you gave a private companies contracting to public contracts. Maybe that’s where the problem lies…..

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