Rotherhithe Tunnel could face year-long closure for £120m repair work, TfL warns

The tunnel carries 30,000 vehicles – and a few brave cyclists – every day (Photo: Simon via Creative Commons)

The Rotherhithe Tunnel could close for a year to carry out essential repairs, Transport for London has warned.

More than 12 million vehicles use the 114-year-old tunnel between Rotherhithe and Limehouse every year, but it is in desperate need of essential maintenance.

Repairing the tunnel is expected to cost £120 million if it closes for a year, a freedom of information request made by Southwark News revealed.

TfL said maintenance work would be “substantially more expensive” if the crossing, which is also open to pedestrians and cyclists, was only closed for repairs at weekends and overnight.

New ventilation systems, fire safety systems and lighting would be installed as part of the works. The tunnel would also get new signage, carriageways, pumps and drainage.

However, there is no confirmation of when any work would go ahead because of the financial crisis at TfL, which is reliant on government funding because of a drop in fare revenue caused by the pandemic.

A TfL spokesperson told Southwark News: “A detailed programme and cost estimate for the works will be produced during the detailed design stage. However, due to TfL’s current financial position, we are unable at this time to progress the procurement for the detailed design and build stages of the project.”

In July a senior TfL executive told members of the London Assembly that the tunnel was “in urgent need of an upgrade”.

Managing director for surface transport Gareth Powell said: “The Rotherhithe Tunnel was built many years ago for a different type of purpose. That is one of the reasons why there are restrictions around the type of vehicle that can enter and go through that tunnel at the moment. That’s in order that we can continue to operate the tunnel safely.”

Vehicles more than two metres high and two metres wide are currently banned from using the tunnel. Goods vehicles weighing more than two tonnes are also prohibited. 

LDRS logoRobert Firth is the Local Democracy Reporter for Southwark. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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