Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels: Report shines light on costly blunders in refurb
Assurances have been given that the calamitous refurbishment of the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels will be completed next spring - three years after the original date.
The announcement comes following a report into the saga which criticised Greenwich Council and its contractors for a series of costly management blunders.
The council has apologised for its handling of the rerfubishment in which delays, mismanagement and lack of action built one on another leading to a wholesale collapse in scheduling, oversight and cost.
Blunders include lengthy closures during which little progress was made and the continuing breaking down of new lifts - compounded by the fact engineers have to come from Germany each time.
Critics have regarded the latest announcement that the works would be finished by next spring as "promising". However, it is deeply critical of the mismanaged project.
Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels, set up last year to represent users of the crossings, say disruption is continuing.
Dr Francis Sedgemore said: "The biggest issue is at Greenwich where we have stairwells boarded up giving about a metre space to be shared between pedestrians and cyclists lugging their bikes along whenever the lifts break.
"And every time the lifts break down the engineers are based in Germany and have to order parts and then come over. It's a very expensive process."
The report by John Willmoth of Hill International into the foot tunnels said the problems were due to a mixture of failings from the council and its contractors into the £11.5million project.
It said the project was rushed due to the need for the tunnels to be fully open before the Olympics, a catalogue of issues with contractors - which, in some cases, worked against specs, and an inertia in the council's management team which failed to relay problems early enough.
Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat's London Assembly group, said: "Finally some information has come to light as to why the upgrades to the tunnels took so long and incredibly are still in such a poor condition.
"Reading the report it does seem that fault lies equally with Greenwich Council and the contractors.
"Greenwich Council must now apologise to the tens of thousands of pedestrians and cyclists who rely on these tunnels but were never kept properly informed while the disruption over the tunnel closures dragged on over such a long period of time."
And Dr Sedgemore called for the "management problems" highlighted in the report to be investigated.
"There are questions over the previous contracts and the money spent before the cancellation of those contracts," he said. "There should be a full account on that in due course."
In response Greenwich Council said the "unique heritage project" had "unprecedented and unforeseen complexities" but added it had appointed a new contractor to work on the refurbishment.
A spokeswoman said: "The Royal Borough again apologises to users of the Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels for the delays in completing the refurbishment programme and we would like to thank tunnel users for their patience.
"Our focus now is to complete the works in as short a time frame as possible."
- Fogwoft is holding a celebration this Saturday to mark the 101st anniversary of opening of the Woolwich Foot Tunnel.
Pedestrians should assembly by 11am at the Woolwich entrance to the tunnel. Meanwhile, cyclists will be meeting at 10am in the Cutty Sark Gardens in Greenwich before heading to Woolwich.
The group will then head to the north side of the Woolwich Foot Tunnel and return south by ferry.