Andrew Gilligan

Andrew Gilligan: Greenwich Council Gets Into Another Hole

April 29, 2009 by  

LAST NIGHT, I stood at the entrance to a darkened, underground place and heard, drifting up from the depths, anguished panting and the heavy slap of rubber on metal.

No, it was not the debut of some new Greenwich sex dungeon. The inmates of this particular subterranean world do wear faintly kinky clothes - but lycra, rather than leather, and fluorescent yellow windcheaters, not dirty macs. They are cyclists, and I was listening to them heaving their bikes up the hundred steps at the southern end of the foot tunnel (the lift, as always these days, being out of action.)

"It doesn't get any easier," said one woman to her friend as she thankfully dumped her steed on the top landing. But though it may be rather a haul, it is definitely preferable to the alternative being planned by our dear friends at Greenwich Council - complete closure of the tunnel for up to eighteen months.

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

It is yet another Olympic-related blow to the area. As we know, the Games are already costing us substantial parts of our park (closed for ten months), historic trees (lopped) and a flower garden (taking on an exciting, dynamic and vibrant new role as a doormat for the Olympic cross-country course.) Now the foot tunnel is going too. In order to make it suitably shiny and modern for 2012, it is to be closed for what the council calls a "substantial refurbishment" costing £11.5 million.

I don't think the tunnel even needs "refurbishing." I like its Edwardian atmosphere, its white tiling and its wood-panelled lifts. Unlike some over-restored heritage structures, its unbuffed-up state still gives a real breath of the ordinary London of the past. Those lifts, though faithful copies of the original ones, are only 17 years old. The south lift may be broken, but could it not perhaps be, well, repaired?

After the redevelopment of the Market and the closure of the Village Market, this refurbishment could end up being just one more attack on the character of Greenwich. With our public spending deficit of £175 billion, it also strikes me as a prime example of the kind of unnecessary project that taxpayers ought to part company with.

But the real difficulty with the refurb is that the tunnel is a vital route which cannot be lost for any significant length of time. As the council's deputy leader, Peter Brooks, admits, it is "still extremely popular, even since the arrival of the DLR offering an alternative crossing option." With its sister at Woolwich, the foot tunnel is used by one and a half million people a year.

Since the DLR, the Greenwich tunnel's clientele has fallen mainly into two groups, both of whom the council claims to view as important. There are tourists, who enjoy the walk through and the view from Island Gardens. If the tunnel follows the Cutty Sark, the markets, and (in 2011/12) the park into the unavailable zone it will be another stage in the diminution of Greenwich's visitor "offer" and another blow to one of our principal industries, tourism.

The second important group is cyclists, who we are all supposed to be encouraging these days. (Declaration of interest: I am one.) The tunnel is the only way for cyclists to cross the river in the eight miles between Rotherhithe and Woolwich (or really in the ten miles between Tower Bridge and Woolwich, since the Rotherhithe Tunnel is not a pleasant or safe experience.) It is an absolutely essential link for cyclists commuting between Canary Wharf and a vast swathe of south London. And it is very heavily used. I counted.

In half an hour yesterday, between 5.55 and 6.25pm, the tunnel was used by 134 cyclists - an average of one every 13 seconds. It was used by 75 pedestrians, two and a half a minute. This would equate to around 250-300 cyclists an hour in the peak hours, so perhaps 1500- 2000 across the whole day. Many of the pedestrians, incidentally, were joggers or runners - so other fitness goals will also be damaged if we close the tunnel. And all that was without a working lift.

I spoke to some of the users. "I cycle every day from Catford to Canary Wharf," said Max Elliot. "I am absolutely horrified to find out that the tunnel might close - there is literally no other way to do the bike journey." Anthony Austin, chair of Greenwich Cyclists, told me: "There's no point in closing the tunnel. It's not clear they need to close the stairs when they are doing the lifts. We cyclists have come to use it as an absolutely essential link."

Some are asking for a peak-hour ferry replacement, but that will greatly extend the crossing time and will not, in any case, help those who travel outside peak hours. The DLR, of course, bans bikes at all times, and Cutty Sark station is too deep for bikes anyway.

Greenwich Council wouldn't deny to me last night that the tunnel will be closed. I've been trying for the last 24 hours to get an answer from them about exactly how long the closure will last - no joy so far. "I just know from experience that once Greenwich Council agrees to the closure of a footpath it will stay closed for a long time," says Anthony Austin.

But the tunnel is, as the council admits, a statutory public highway. So there will have to be some sort of legal process to close it - which offers opportunities for a fightback. At the very least, it should be argued that even if the lifts have to close, the stairs should stay open.

We have only just got the A2 back after two months of largely unnecessary chaos. And I don't know about you, but I am getting sick, sick, sick of councils and other public busybodies interfering with our town and our lives for their pointless vanity projects. This might be the one where the worm finally turns.


48 Responses to “Andrew Gilligan: Greenwich Council Gets Into Another Hole”

  1. Brockley Nick on April 30th, 2009 10:33 am

    While I agree that the tunnel currently has unique character and that complete closure of the tunnel would be a real blow, but theres’ no news this is actually the plan, nor why the Council feel it necessary to refurbish the tunnel. Before dismissing it as a vanity project, it would be nice to know the facts, particularly since you grossly distort the impact of the Olympics on Greenwich Park, which will not be closed for 10 months, only the period of the Games themselves.

  2. Tom on April 30th, 2009 10:59 am

    “Greenwich Park, which will not be closed for 10 months, only the period of the Games themselves”

    I don’t think even Locog are claiming the park will only be closed for the period of the games themselves, are they?

  3. Andrew Gilligan on April 30th, 2009 1:56 pm

    Brockley Nick,

    I stated that “substantial parts” of Greenwich Park will be closed for ten months. This is not a distortion but comes directly from Debbie Jevans, Locog’s director of sport, in an interview with me last year.

    Talking about the arena and stabling in the lower part of the park, she said: “We anticipate starting major building works in March 2012 and will hand back the park about six weeks after the end of the Paralympics.” The Paralympics end on September 4.

    She said there would be closures of similar areas for “two to three months” in spring and summer 2011, as smaller versions of the facilities were built for the test event that the IOC requires.

    While we’re on the subject of honesty, how about being honest about your own interest? Your real name is Nick Barron. You are an associate director of Edelman PR, which bid for the London 2012 PR contract, has an Olympic-related contract with Sport England and has a commercial partnership with one of the leaders of the 2012 bid.


  4. darryl853 on April 30th, 2009 2:02 pm

    Greenwich Park will be closed two weeks before the 2012 games (mid-July) with it progressively reopening to the public during August, LOCOG said in December.

    (photos and video here: )

    The area where the arena will be will be closed from April 2012, and that’ll be the lengthy closure. But the whole park will be closed for around six weeks/ two months, not 10 months.

    As for the foot tunnel – Greenwich Council are deceitful so-and-sos who don’t help themselves, but I’d like to hear how long a potential closure would be and what measures would be put into place before (especially overnight) before judging anything.

  5. Andrew Gilligan on April 30th, 2009 2:03 pm

    And just to repeat what I said in the article, I did of course speak to the council and they refuse to deny that the tunnel will be closed. If the plan were otherwise, I am sure they would have said so.

  6. Brockley Nick on April 30th, 2009 3:27 pm

    Andrew – just to clarify, I actually agree with the thrust of your article and plan to link to it from my blog.

    I’m very open about the company I work for, having referenced it on my blog on multiple occasions but I am also someone who was born and raised in Greenwich and is looking forward to seeing the Games played on my home turf.

    Despite being a regular user of the Park, I don’t begrudge its short term closure in exchange for Greenwich Park playing a role in the Olympics. I think it’s exciting. Others disagree, which is their right, but at least let the arguments against the plans be based on the facts.

    You say this:

    “If the tunnel follows the Cutty Sark, the markets, and (in 2011/12) the park into the unavailable zone”

    That suggests the park will be out of bounds for at least 9 months, which is a common misconception which I think deserves to be corrected. Darryl853 has provided the relevant link.

  7. Paul on April 30th, 2009 4:13 pm

    I can’t believe that even more of the town is about to be boarded up for renovation! I have already posted a jokey comment about the main tourist attraction in Greenwich now being our hoardings (pier, visitor centre, Cutty Sark, Stockwell St site, Greenwich hospital, Lovells Wharf being some of the main ones at the moment).
    I think too much emphasis is being placed on 2012. Businesses in the area need to keep going until then and at the moment the world heritage hoardings site is likely to gain a reputation of being a building site with a nice park in the middle of it
    The foot tunnel could probably be improved slightly but it needs to keep its integrity as an interesting historical artefact (that I think looks pretty good). Lets stop tampering with Greenwich and trying to turn it into a theme park and concentrate on unobtrusive improvements to the things that the residents and tourists like so much

  8. chaz1 on April 30th, 2009 4:21 pm

    “Speak your mind” it says above the comment box, but I know that moderation means I cannot. However, I would like to – politely – note my disgust at Andrew’s comment to Nick questioning his honesty. If I thought an official complaint would be effective, I would make it.

    Gilligan is an offence to decent journalism. For one thing – where is his source for today’s story? His own prejudice.

  9. rob on April 30th, 2009 4:29 pm

    Chaz1 – You can speak your mind about the subjects we’re discussing, which are Greenwich Foot Tunnel and Greenwich Park.

    You previous comment which didn’t make it through seemed a little off topic for my liking. But thanks for the reminder that I need to put a link to our comments policy.

  10. chaz1 on April 30th, 2009 4:40 pm

    Cheers Rob. Now all I’m left with is the disturbing knowledge that I share my daily commute through the tunnel with Mr Gilligan.

    If one day he can produce any actual evidence to show that his scare story about the closure of the tunnel is true, and the park will be destroyed, that would be interesting.

    As it is, all I can see is prejudice and exaggeration, as well as – buried deep within the story, and negatively framed by Gilligan – a denial from the council.

  11. Andrew Gilligan on May 1st, 2009 12:31 am

    Chaz 1 – The piece does not say that the council denied the tunnel will close. It says that the council REFUSED to deny that the tunnel will close. If the plan had been otherwise, I am sure they would have said so. I spoke to them twice on this point.

    Could you in future actually read what I write before you wax righteous about my alleged errors.

  12. chaz1 on May 1st, 2009 10:41 am

    Andrew – you were right, I didn’t read it as well as I should. I thought you simply buried the denial but instead you based your story on a refusal to deny! What a joke.

    This is a classic “when was the last time you beat your wife” type question. You could base literally any story on such a basis (“Greenwich council refuse to deny Mars excursion plan”). As a journalist myself there is no way I could get your story past my desk without it being sent back with derision.

    I await a story based on fact with much anticipation.

  13. Tom on May 1st, 2009 11:05 am

    If Greenwich Council are planning a refurbishment of the tunnel, it would seem obvious that they would have an idea if this would require a closure. If they fail to deny that the tunnel will be closed for a period of time, it seems logical to accept that there will indeed be a closure otherwise they would just, well, deny it?

    It’s a simple matter that they could answer quite simply if they wanted to because they must know the answer. The Mars excursion comparison seems slightly ludicrous.

  14. chaz1 on May 1st, 2009 11:13 am

    Or, they might not have fleshed out their plan yet and are waiting until they have one before making an announcement. What else should they do? Tell their arch-accuser what their plans may or may not be? I know how I would treat Gilligan if I was a Greenwich Council PR.

    As it is, Gilligan’s piece is just one witless assertion after another with his final childish statement (“I am getting sick, sick, sick of councils and other public busybodies interfering with our town and our lives for their pointless vanity projects”) apparently the real basis of the story. I mean, he hasn’t denied it, has he?

  15. rob on May 1st, 2009 11:25 am

    “What else should they do? Tell their arch-accuser what their plans may or may not be?”

    Well, yes. Andrew is a resident in the borough they are paid to serve and was writing an article for this website, so they probably should tell him what their plans may or may not be.

    In the absence of a clarification, I guess we will have to wait and see. I have also put in a request for information about this so will post any more information, should I receive it.

  16. Tom on May 1st, 2009 11:39 am

    With their track record I don’t really expect Greenwich Council to tell anybody anything at all about their plans (arch accusers or not!)

  17. Andrew Gilligan on May 1st, 2009 9:07 pm

    The council’s press release says that the tunnel will be given “refurbished stairways and head houses, new lighting, new drainage, structural repairs and leak sealing.” I make two observations about this:

    1. None of it is necessary. Apart from needing repairs to the lifts, the tunnel is fine as it is.

    2. But if it is done, it will be quite impossible to do it without closing the tunnel.

    The charge that the tunnel will be closed was first made in Pedal Power, the newsletter of Greenwich Cyclists, several weeks ago. Greenwich Council have had ages to deny it if it is false, and have repeatedly refused to do so. I’m quite sure their refusal to confirm is simply a tactic to minimise the amount of time for protest.

    Chaz1- I can’t quite believe you’re a journalist. First, all the journalists I know can read. Second, you bear a distinct resemblance to the Greenwich Council trolls who always appear on these comment threads whenever I write something critical of the council. We might be able to get you a job on Greenwich Time, though.

  18. Darren on May 2nd, 2009 8:59 am


    The problem seems to be that you spend a significant ammount of energy relating anything bad to either Ken Livinstone or the Olympics, issues you clealry oppose with a passion. This becomes a bit grating to anyone who may support either of those issues.

    Perhaps you could raise the safety issues of all those cyclists riding at speed accross the pedestrianised area surrounding the cutty sark without any signage to indicate the risk!

    Darren – definately not working for Ken or the Olympics

  19. Andrew Gilligan on May 2nd, 2009 1:00 pm

    Sorry Darren – this IS related to the Olympics. And there’s no mention of Ken in the piece. Have I got another reader with reading difficulties?

  20. Going underground, and other stories « 853 on May 2nd, 2009 1:58 pm

    […] for refurbishment in a few months, although the details seem pretty hazy. The story emerged on Andrew Gilligan’s blog on, with Gilligan claiming “I am getting sick, sick, sick of councils and other public […]

  21. IanVisits on May 4th, 2009 2:05 pm

    There is a third group of people who use the tunnel – those who worked out that it is not that much different in journey time from using the DLR.

    Once you factor in the time getting down the platforms, waiting for a train and getting back out the other end – you might as well just walk down the tunnel.

  22. Nick Sebley on May 4th, 2009 2:08 pm

    Despite a residual horror at your behavior and that of the ES in the run up to the Mayoral elections ..I completely agree with you.

    Councils who are supposed to be purely managers and enablers of our interests and shared environments now act as owners.

    The tunnel is fine as it is: atmospheric and very useful to local people. I would be willing to be part of any campaign to stop its unnecessary refurbishment.

    Please keep me informed about any updates. Direct action might have to be invoked if we are not listened to again.

  23. scotch on May 5th, 2009 3:41 pm

    EDITED BY ADMIN – The topic for this discussion is the possible closure of Greenwich Foot Tunnel for refurbishment. All comments on that topic are welcomed.

  24. her_welshness on May 14th, 2009 5:37 pm

    Some of us concerned cyclists had a meeting with Greenwich Council to discuss the tunnel closures and the alternative arrangements for crossing the river. Minutes from that meeting will be available shortly from Lewisham Cyclists web-site. Will give you a heads up when thats live.

  25. Tom Crispin on May 16th, 2009 6:31 am

    Unless local groups oppose their closure, the tunnels at Greenwich and Woolwich are going to close for refurbishment. This is likely to happen for up to 18 months between September 2009 and March 2011.

    Greenwich Council is not planning any replacement service for those wishing to push bikes under the Thames (pedestrians will be able to use the DLR); they claim the cost of a ferry service will be £11,000 per week.

    Some of the work to the tunnels is essential, e.g. fixing a leak in one of the stairwell/lift shafts at Woolwich. Other work is welcome, rewiring the lighting, new CCTV, emergency lighting, replacement lift mechanisms for the current mechanisms for which spare parts are, according to GC, not possible to source. Some of the work is unwelcome, renewing the footway at Woolwich, re-facing the tunnels (instead of cleaning them).

    As public highways, Greenwich Council will have to consult on the tunnels’ closure. If there is sufficient opposition to the closure a public enquiry will have to be held. This will delay the works. If the works are not complete by March 2011 Greenwich Council will lose the £11.5m for the refurbishment. Unless there is a local replacement ferry service at Greenwich, or the closure at Greenwich is restricted to overnight (00.00 – 05.30 perhaps), local cycling groups are likely to oppose the closure. Therefore, Greenwich Council would be well advised to lay on a replacement ferry service at Greenwich. With the Woolwich Ferry offering an alternative, the closure at Woolwich is not as serious, though it would greatly inconvenience cyclists at times when the Woolwich Ferry is not operating, and pedestrians when the DLR is not operating.

  26. Foot Tunnels To Close For “Up To 18 Months”? | on May 16th, 2009 9:36 am

    […] readers will know that Andrew Gilligan recently raised the prospect of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel being closed whilst the Council carries out refurbishments using the £11.5million it was awarded by central […]

  27. Damian on May 16th, 2009 8:11 pm

    Andrew, could you add a footnote pointing out how we can object? I would certainly want to object to the tunnel closing.


  28. Paul on May 17th, 2009 11:23 am

    Brockley Nick says that the park will only have closures for the “period of the Games themselves”
    Presumably Nick is under the impression that the entire park will be open during the construction of the stadium. Even LOCOG aren’t being that optimistic and told me yesterday that parts will be closed off from about 4 months before development; so, by my estimate, the park will be effected for the entire summer April – September. About 5 months of closures for a 2 week event. Thanks LOCOG.

  29. d fairhurst on May 17th, 2009 6:37 pm

    I’ve been walkingh ot cycling thro’ the tunnel for the last 15 years and have become resigned over the last 5 years to a profoundly unreliable service which fails to notify its users what is going on and does not invite comment or discussion. Greenwich are entirely likely to close the tunnel for 18 months. It’s the kind of ‘service’ which they offer at the moment. When Tower Bridge was closed for a year in 1993, a ferry was laid on at £1.00 a crossing. Why can’t Greenwich do this? Who are they? They close off Greenwich without telling anyone for their ‘1/2’ marathon when the real marathon allows people in or out by lunchtime. I find it extraordinary that Greenwich plays lipservice to fashionable projects but not to the day to day benefit of their citizens. Obviously, that’s rubbish. After all, it is Greenwich which is busting a gut to build on the market – the heart of Grenwich. It’s the same sort of scandal as MPs expenses and bankers bonuses. HAT IS THNE MATTER WITH THESE PEOPLE???????????

  30. Brockley Nick on May 17th, 2009 8:28 pm


    “Brockley Nick says that the park will only have closures for the “period of the Games themselves. Presumably Nick is under the impression that the entire park will be open during the construction of the stadium.”

    No, I’m not. I understand that a part of the park will be closed for a number of months, prior to the Games. However, that scenario is substantially different from the article’s suggestion that the park will be an “unavailable zone” from 2011.

  31. tom on May 18th, 2009 10:42 am

    I see that Greenwich Park is partly closed today for filming. I saw a van with QVC on it. I hope the frequent complainers about the Olympics are FURIOUS about that as well! Shopping channels coming over here and spoiling our park …

    It would be great if the debate about the Olympics, the park, the tunnel, the market and the council could be held carefully, and with some accuracy. Instead, lots of angry people seem to throw everything they don’t like into the same pot and fling blame and anger around with no apparent care for who is actually responsible for what.

  32. Paul on May 19th, 2009 9:35 am

    The film units are usually in the park for a couple of days maximum. They don’t ‘prune’ trees whilst they are there, neither do they have to close part of the park for 4 months while they build their sets. I doubt that QVC are going to ask for road closures or close the entire park whilst they are actually filming.
    Film and TV production is a major employer in London and as such I am happy to see them in Greenwich.

  33. tom on May 19th, 2009 10:53 am

    oh paul, your sense of humour failure is total!

    a more general point is that Greenwich Park is frequently used for commercial activities, which close off portions of it (there was a big film last year, for instance, which closed off a portion for a while).

    Few, if any, provide any obvious benefit to the wider community. The Olympics, on the other hand, is inspiring a generation (I sometimes train with prospective Olympic bike racers, and the kids often talk of nothing else).

    It is not entirely clear in my mind why one is the worst thing in the world ever and the other is fine. (And I think the Olympics might generate a job or two for the locality, maybe even more than filming.)

    (Oh, and because Andrew’s disgraceful accusation above has made this disclaimer necessary: I am a Greenwich resident, born and bred in London, have no financial stake in any Olympic business and – unlike others – am not and have never posted under any false name.)

  34. Paul on May 19th, 2009 2:12 pm

    Beg to differ about the film productions bringing no benefit to the community; the cultural industries are one of London’s biggest employers and plough money back into local training schemes and low budget production. Seeing film productions inspires many young people to get into film and whilst I do not claim that every single one will become the new Scorsese there are a lot of jobs in production and the UK produces a lot of technical and acting talent. And if a young person wants to find out how to get into filmmaking there are a great deal of accessible and inexpensive/free courses open to young people that build confidence, team working and may even lead to further training and employment.

    Whilst I don’t doubt that the Olympics will inspire some young people I still doubt the accessibility of the equestrian and the impact it will have on local kids. Maybe they will peer through the railings to try and see what is going on when the park is closed and maybe they will try and investigate getting into the sport. Yes, the equestrian has proven popular with some London families (The Windsors spring to mind) but maybe its not quite as open to all as you would suggest.

    Sorry about the humour failure. Perhaps it would help if you add a comment to your next post to let readers know when you are being witty

  35. her_welshness on May 26th, 2009 11:31 am

    Sorry if this link does not work – these are the minutes of the meeting between Greenwich Council and Greenwich Cyclists re: foot tunnel closures.

  36. tom on May 26th, 2009 1:14 pm

    that’s a really great link. v interesting to see what is actually being planned rather than the uninteresting products of people’s fevered imaginations.

    One thing that struck me was the suggestion that:

    “In time to come, there will be another footbridge [across the Thames] running from the O2, but not in time for this project.”

  37. David on May 26th, 2009 4:17 pm

    I suggest if no-one else has … Greenwich / Tower Hamlets should co-opt the DLR to allow free transport from Island Gardens to Cutty Sark during the closure. I know this does not help cyclists, but it will at least keep the foot traffic alive.

  38. TJB on May 26th, 2009 8:40 pm

    I don’t know why it hasn’t been noted that there is already a ferry service which carries bikes from Greenwich pier to Masthouse (which is pretty close to Island Gardens) and Canary Wharf. It runs every twenty minutes and I am sure the operator would run more boats if demand could be proved.

  39. tony on June 18th, 2009 9:28 am


    I was unaware of this feery service, do you have any more detaisl please?

    I am not interested in the arguments above, I just want to be able to cycle to work at the Wharf. I t will be a greaat pity if the tunnel is shut, even for a week.


  40. Janiene C. Hall on August 11th, 2009 1:41 pm

    I live south of the river and my boyfriend lives in Newham, so I frequently use the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to walk backwards and forwards between mine and my boyfriends house – my boyfriend cycles between our houses and he too uses the foot tunnel – free of charge – I am currently unemployed. The beauty of the foot tunnel is the unlimited freedome to cross the river without payment and also the non-restrictive freedom to cross without having to wait for unreliable methods of transport. Whilst I didn’t realise that there is a ferry which crosses between Greenwich and Island Gardens, a ferry service between the foot tunnel needs to become operational if the tunnel should close, in order to meet the demand to get across the river without having to pay. We don’t all have plenty of money to pay for the DLR to get across the river! I hope Boris Johnson reads these comments and takes heed!

  41. Derek B on August 13th, 2009 1:41 pm


    I would imagine that the foot tunnel WILL close, regardless of any protests made.
    Therefore, is it not best to accept this and rather look to mitigation?
    For instance, imagine the situation where there was a frequent replacement ferry. This would be preferable to the existing foot-funnel with it’s oft closed lifts, especially for people with bicycles. Think about it: carry bike down stairs, wheel bike down tunnel, carry bike up other stairs; OR get on ground level ferry, rest bike, get off ferry other side.
    So why not devote protest energies towards getting a frequent ferry (and “frequent” is, of course, essential) rather than trying to resist a fait accompli.

    Makes sense to me or am I talking Winnie the **** ?

    Derek B

  42. Fat Cat on August 14th, 2009 8:14 am

    I doubt the ferry would be running at 6am though.

  43. Rob M on August 15th, 2009 5:48 pm

    So. Can anyone tell me if the tunnel is actually closed or not, right now?

    The council website contradicts itself on the subject, and when I spoke to their helpline I got the impressive response: “sorry, we don’t know”.

    given that the DLR is off this weekend, as is the Jubilee line, it’s the only option save swimming. I have no intention of trekking down to Island Gardens only to find it shut…

    So: is it open right now or not??

  44. Tom Crispin on August 19th, 2009 9:38 pm

    The foot tunnels are still open, although the lifts are ill-maintained and are frequently closed (in the 175 days to 24 June the South lift had broken down 181 times!).

    Greenwich Council will need to give plenty of notice before closing the tunnels as they are public highways, and unless a free ferry service is laid on local cycling groups will object to their closure forcing a public enquiry.

    The best place to be kept up to date about the proposed closure of the Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels is the Greenwich Cyclists’ Website:

    The Mayor of London seems particularly disinterested in the tunnels’ proposed closure:

    *Written Answers to Questions about Cycling – Mayors Question Time
    21/5/09. *

    *Closure of Greenwich Foot Tunnel [1]*

    *Question No: 1105 / 2009*

    Caroline Pidgeon

    Since the Greenwich Foot Tunnel is due to be closed for 18 months from
    next year for lifts to be replaced, and some 415 cyclists were recently
    logged using the Tunnel between 7am and 9.30am, what plans does TfL have
    for getting these cyclists across the river to work during the closure?

    *Answer from the Mayor:*

    The London Borough of Greenwich is responsible for the foot tunnel and
    is considering what alternative arrangements should be put in place
    during the replacement of the lifts. London Borough of Greenwich
    officers are in contact with Thames Clippers regarding their plans for
    alternative river crossing arrangements during the period of closure.
    TfL is available to provide advice to Greenwich if requested.

    *Closure of Greenwich Foot Tunnel [2]*

    *Question No: 1106 / 2009*

    Caroline Pidgeon

    During the 18 months of the planned Greenwich Foot Tunnel closure, will
    you consider operating a ferry service across the river for pedestrians
    and cyclists?

    *Answer from the Mayor:*

    The London Borough of Greenwich is responsible for the foot tunnel and
    is considering what alternative arrangements should be put in place
    during the replacement of the lifts. London Borough of Greenwich
    officers are in contact with Thames Clippers regarding their plans for
    alternative river crossing arrangements during the period of closure.
    TfL is available to provide advice to Greenwich if requested.


    *Closure of Greenwich Foot Tunnel [3]*

    *Question No: 1107 / 2009*

    Caroline Pidgeon

    During the period when the Greenwich Foot Tunnel is closed for
    renovations, will you explore the possibility of either organising a
    free boat ferry for pedestrians and cyclists between Greenwich and the
    Isle of Dogs or subsidising free travel for them on the Thames Clipper
    service between the piers at Cutty Sark and Masthouse Terrace?

    *Answer from the Mayor:*

    The provision and funding of alternative arrangements during the closure
    of the Greenwich foot tunnel is a matter for the London Borough of
    Greenwich who is carrying out this work.

    Please refer to my answer to question 1106/2009.

  45. David Ash on October 10th, 2009 1:53 pm

    When I was a lad living in Greenwich, the foot tunnel was much used as an underground refuge for snogging couples. I can picture it now, couples lining the walls at discreet intervals, steamily wrapped around each other in the dim light.

    If that is still one of the functions of the tunnel, it is obviously not an activity that can satisfactorily be performed on a ferry. Will the London Borough of Greenwich be providing suitable alternative arrangements for such couples? Would these be free, or would carnets and season tickets be required?

  46. Ges on January 12th, 2011 10:06 am

    Can someone tell me when the work on the stairs in the Greenwich foot tunnel will be complete, the lift operators seem to be in the dark! and I have not seen anthing on the Greenwich Council website..At present the lifts are constantly breaking down shutting the tunnel, meaning as a cyclist I have the privlidge of paying £3.29 to cross the river at on most days

  47. Lara on March 3rd, 2011 10:40 am

    Not sure if anyone is still posting on this thread, but can those who earlier in the thread went gaga at Andrew Gilligan for suggesting that Greenwich Council were planning on closing the tunnel now comment on the state of the now CLOSED foot tunnel?

  48. Katie Collis on March 3rd, 2011 12:48 pm

    My spies tell me that the Greenwich foot tunnel is now OPEN. The lifts are not working but the stairs are accessible.