Greenwich foot tunnel in London
The Greenwich foot tunnel is a pedestrian tunnel crossing beneath the River Thames in East London, linking Greenwich (London Borough of Greenwich) in the south with the Isle of Dogs (London Borough of Tower Hamlets) to the north. The tunnel is currently undergoing refurbishment and the works were due to be complete by June 2011, but delays mean that they are now scheduled to be complete by September 2011.
Design and construction
The tunnel was designed by civil engineer Sir Alexander Binnie for London County Council, and was constructed by contractor John Cochrane & Co; the project started in June 1899 and the tunnel was opened on 4 August 1902. The tunnel replaced an expensive and sometimes unreliable ferry service, and was intended to allow workers living on the south side of the Thames to reach their workplaces in the London docks and shipyards then situated in or near the Isle of Dogs. Its creation owed much to the efforts of working-class politician Will Crooks who had worked in the docks and, after chairing the LCC's Bridges Committee responsible for the tunnel, would later serve as Labour MP for nearby Woolwich.
The entrance shafts at both ends lie beneath glazed domes, with lifts (installed in 1904, upgraded in 1992) and spiral staircases allowing pedestrians to reach the sloping, tile-lined tunnel at the bottom. The cast-iron tunnel itself is 370.2 m (1,217 ft) long and 15.2 m (50 ft) deep and has an internal diameter of about 9 feet (2.7 m). Its cast-iron rings are lined with concrete which has been surfaced with some 200,000 white glazed tiles. The northern end was damaged by bombs during World War II and the repairs included a thick steel and concrete inner lining that reduces the diameter substantially for a short distance.
The tunnel is a convenient link between Greenwich town centre on the southern side — the entrance is close to the remains of the previously preserved tea clipper Cutty Sark — and parts of Docklands including Canary Wharf. The northern entrance to the tunnel is at Island Gardens, a park on the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs, with excellent views across the river to the former Greenwich Hospital, the Queen's House and the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Because of its depth and location, the tunnel remains cool even on hot days.
The tunnel is classed as a public highway and therefore by law is kept open 24 hours a day. However, the attendant-operated lift service is only open from 7am to 7pm on weekdays and Saturdays, 10am-5.30pm on Sundays, with no service on Christmas Day or Boxing Day; staff shortages and other problems mean that even during these times the lifts are often unavailable. If the lift is not functioning and a person feels unable to use the stairs, they may take the Docklands Light Railway from nearby Island Gardens DLR station to Cutty Sark DLR station, close to the southern end of the foot tunnel. However non-folding bicycles are not permitted on the Docklands Light Railway system.
The tunnel is also part of the UK's National Cycle Route 1 linking Inverness and Dover, although cyclists are required to dismount and push their bikes through the tunnel itself.
Greenwich Council started work to upgrade the tunnel on 19 April 2010. The works will reduce leakage, improve drainage and see the installation of new lifts, CCTV, communication facilities and signage. The scheduled completion date was planned to be March 2011 but is now planned for September 2011.<ref name=GreenwichCouncil /> The tunnel was intended still to be accessible for most of the renovation work. The intention was that one lift would be replaced at a time, and the stairs would remain in use. The tunnel would be open in the day but close at night on weekdays with a replacement ferry until 1am. However, due to the risk of danger to the public and emergency lift repairs, the tunnel closed completely in February 2011 but the stairs can now be used, with the lifts expected to open again in September 2011.<ref name=GreenwichCouncil />
- Greenwich entrance:
- Tower Hamlets entrance:
- Tunnels underneath the River Thames
- Sound files and video of the tunnel
- Greenwich Council official twitter feed with updates regarding lift failures.