Greenwich foot tunnel
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The Greenwich Foot Tunnel crosses beneath the River Thames in East London, linking Greenwich (Royal Borough of Greenwich) in the south with the Isle of Dogs (London Borough of Tower Hamlets) to the north.
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 again in 2012) and helical staircases allowing pedestrians to reach the sloping, tile-lined tunnel at the bottom. The cast-iron tunnel itself is 1,215 feet (370.2 m) long and 50 feet (15.2 m) deep and has an internal diameter of about 9 feet (2.74 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 the Second World War 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 restored 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. The tunnels are accessible by spiral staircases and large lifts (refurbished in the 2010-2012 renovations).
Prior to recent renovations, the attendant-operated lift service was 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 meant that even during these times the lifts were often unavailable. If the lift was not functioning and a person felt unable to use the stairs, they could take the Docklands Light Railway between Island Gardens DLR station (close to the northern end of the tunnel) and Cutty Sark DLR station, close to the southern end since 1999. However, non-folding bicycles are not permitted on the Docklands Light Railway system during peak times.
Greenwich Council started work to upgrade the tunnel on 19 April 2010, intending to reduce leakage, improve drainage and install new lifts, CCTV, communication facilities and signage. Completion was planned for March 2011 but this slipped to September 2011. The tunnel was supposed to be accessible throughout most of the renovations, but closed completely in February 2011. Stair use was soon regained but lifts remained out of service until early 2012, and remained subject to occasional brief closures during 2012.
In October 2012 Greenwich Council acknowledged that the upgrade work had not been completed on time and had run over budget. The work was finally completed and included new customer-operated lifts with surface level availability signs, CCTV coverage, upgraded lighting and renewal or replacement of vital structural components.
- Greenwich entrance: Coordinates:
- Tower Hamlets entrance:
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Greenwich foot tunnel.|
- "Greenwich Council Facts about the Foot Tunnel". Greenwich.gov.uk. 2011-10-10. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
- Greenwich Foot Tunnel at Structurae
- "Cabinet agrees way ahead for foot tunnels refurbishment - Greenwich". Royalgreenwich.gov.uk. 2012-10-12. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
- "Foot tunnels". Royal Borough of Greenwich. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
- Sound files and video of the tunnel
- Greenwich Council official twitter feed with updates regarding lift failures.