- Greenwich Council admits foot tunnel upgrades have gone wrong, threatens legal action against contractors
- No work currently taking place on stalled project
- Local Conservatives say council "simply does not know what it is doing"
GREENWICH Council will this week try and work out a way ahead to rescue the stalled refurbishment of Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels.
Over two years since the £11.5 million upgrade commenced, the tunnels sit unfinished with no work currently taking place, providing "an unacceptable and deteriorating environment," says a report by council officers which will be considered by the cabinet on Wednesday evening.
The new plan, expected to be agreed by the Cabinet, will see a new contractor brought in to finish the project and the setting up of an independent review in to how the council runs big projects. The council also plans to appoint legal experts to help recover some of the costs from the bungled project.
What went wrong
Work started on an extensive refurbishment of the century-old river crossings in March 2010 after a grant to pay for the works was issued by central government. The plan attracted controversy from the beginning with information short on how tunnel users would be affected while works took place.
Dean & Dyball Civil Engineering (DDCE) were appointed as lead contractor with Messrs Sweett as Project Managers and Hyder Consulting as Lead Designer.
Sixteen months after work started, with cost estimates exceeded and schedules not met, the council says it engaged in "more intense scrutiny of the project" and agreed a new plan with DDCE to at least get the lifts working by Christmas 2011 but even this revised target wasn't met.
By December 2011, the council finally took full control of the project and terminated the agreements with the contractors.
The lifts in Greenwich Foot Tunnel were at long last operational by April 2012, but have been hit by frequent breakdowns and there is much work to be done, with stairwells at both side still restricted in width because of temporary hoardings erected.
Woolwich Foot Tunnel has no working lifts.
In a statement issued at the weekend, Greenwich Council apologised for the "over budget" and incomplete refurbishments.
"The Royal Borough of Greenwich shares the frustration of tunnel users and the general public over the time taken to complete this project and apologises for the ongoing delays to this work," says the statement.
It adds: "Legal advice is being sought from a firm of specialist construction lawyers to determine any case for recovering the additional costs from the contractors."
The leader of the Greenwich Conservatives, Cllr Spencer Drury, told Greenwich.co.uk that the cabinet should be "ashamed."
“This is a shocking tale of mismanagement which shows that this Council simply does not know what it is doing. In the report it suggests that the Council has a good record of managing projects, but one of their quoted examples the Eltham Centre went up in flames due to faulty wiring shortly after its completion.”
“It is simply wrong that Council Tax payers are being asked to foot the bill for this chaos.”
“At a time of austerity to be stumping up more than £11m to replace a couple lifts and slap a bit of paint on because the Labour Council can’t manage their way out of a paper bag is outrageous and Labour Cabinet members should be ashamed of themselves.”