Will Norman’s Letter about Alternative River Crossings in Full
Thank you for writing to the Mayor on 6 April about the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and alternative means of crossing the river. As I am sure you can appreciate, during these challenging times the Mayor is very heavily engaged with leading London’s response to Covid-19 and he has therefore asked me to respond to your letter on his behalf.
Transport for London (TfL) and the boroughs understand that the tunnel is an important route for essential workers travelling to and from work, which is why it is being kept open on working days for key workers making essential journeys. In order to protect public health, the tunnel was closed over the Easter long weekend, but was then reopened on 13 April. The decision to close it on weekends is being kept under close review.
Crossing the river will still be possible using the DLR and TfL is permitting passengers to bring bikes onboard on this section even in peak times. However, TfL does not plan to introduce free travel on any section of the DLR. At this time, public transport should only be used by critical workers making essential journeys and introducing free travel would undermine this aim and potentially put lives at risk. Furthermore, administering free travel on a small section of the service would be resource intensive, at a time when TfL staff is rightly focussed on providing a safe and reliable service for our amazing NHS staff and other critical workers.
TfL has introduced various other practical support options for both the general public and for NHS staff. You can find out more here: https://tfl.gov.uk/campaign/coronavirus-covid-
Thank you again for writing to the Mayor and for your understanding. I hope you and your family are keeping well in these challenging time.
Mayor’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner
And Here’s our Response
21 May 2020
UPDATE ON TUNNEL CLOSURE 8 April 2020
Greenwich Council have just advised us of the following:
“The decision to close the Greenwich Foot Tunnel over the (Bank Holiday) weekend has had to be made. Monitoring via cctv led to this decision and the Council is currently putting out a range of communication about this in liaison with LBTH.The closure will be from 10pm Thursday until 10pm Monday.On Tuesday we expect to have a very visible staff presence advising users the tunnel is only for essential use and to adhere to social distancing rules – arrangements are being put in place now.I’m also arranging signage to advise users on the ground.We did enquire with the DLR. Whilst they can carry bikes over the weekend as far as I understand they can not offer free travel between the two stops.Woolwich Foot Tunnel has seen much lower levels of use and users very easily adhere to social distancing. The tunnel will therefore stay open but this is being monitored (and will be monitored over the weekend)”
UPDATE 7 April 2020
Greenwich Council have advised us that it has considered the management of the foot tunnels during the coronavirus crisis. Its current policies :
1. recognise the strategic importance of the tunnels for key and critical workers
2. will endeavour to keep the tunnels open over Easter weekend
3. stress that people should only use the tunnels for essential journeys and use them sensibly
4. recognise that these policies will be under constant review and they may need to be changed swiftly
5. will be signing more clearly and institute patrolling.
We will try to update this information as necessary
Closure of Greenwich Foot Tunnel in Coronavirus Crisis
We understand that the Greenwich Tunnel was closed only for yesterday owing to concerns about coronavirus. Fogwoft have written to Mayor Khan and Greenwich Council supporting that action but requesting free travel on the DLR between Cutty Sark at Maritime Greenwich and Island Gardens if the closure becomes more extensive.
Fogwoft’s letter and proposal can be read by clicking the link below.
Ian Blore, 6 April 2020
We understand from Greenwich Council that the tunnel should only be closed at weekends and possibly bank holidays but that more extensive closures are under review.
Greenwich Town Centre Liveable Neigbourhood Consultation – Comments from fogwoft to Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG)
Fogwoft welcome the chance to make some initial comments on the published approach to improving the town centre. We have asked our Friends to personally and in detail engage in the advance consultation process. Our collective comments serve to stress the common needs of most tunnel users in Greenwich. They are either pedestrians or cyclists and have an interest in the immediate surroundings of the Foot Tunnel.
RBG have indicated that the scheme goes well beyond pedestrianising 2 town streets. We’d just like to flag up some key ways in which the scheme may affect the Foot Tunnel and how any approach to it may be improved. We will not comment on the tunnel itself which is the subject of ongoing improvements and experiments.
What may be termed “joining up the dots” around the scheme include:
- Clarifying walking and cycling in Cutty Sark Gardens (there was a public consultation some years ago which should be revisited)
- Managing clearly the route that emerges from the Park and continues down (the contraflow) on King William Walk, across Nelson Rd and a possibly pedestrianised KWW, onto the northern bit of KWW and into Cutty Sark Gardens
- Managing better access to the Gardens from the east (through the University grounds) and the west (towards Capital Quays)
- Clearly signing the entrances to the DLR for all forms of travellers to the town centre
- Carefully considering the location of bus routes that are a major travel mode for visitors and an important interchange to the DLR and Thames ferries
- Improving the rather lamentable state of Cutty Sark Gardens and the eateries on the pier head; they are a poor setting for an almost unique (and mercifully largely original) example of Victorian tunnelling expertise.
We would welcome discussion with the Royal Borough of Greenwich around these issues. Fogwoft hope to address them at its Annual General Meeting well before any formal consultation in 2019.
Dr Mary Mills, Ian Blore, February 2019
Tunnel Closed Overnight (4/1/19)
We have received this urgent message from Greenwich Council:
An emergency has arisen at Greenwich Foot Tunnel following a critical fault to a key faulty electricity power supply cable.EdF have to carry out emergency repair works which entails the closure of the foot tunnel to all users for the next 10 to 12 hours. For safety reasons a deferral until next week is not possible.The council apologies for any inconvenience this causes to any tunnel users.The gates to both lifts and the helical stairs will be closed off to public use.Fortunately, the alternative means of crossing the river, is available by use of the DLR and its stations at Cutty Sark Gardens and Island Gardens are a short walk away from the tunnel entrances.Council staff will be available on site until 10.00pm tonight to explain the situation to foot tunnel users.
Fogwoft will tweet about the situation again tomorrow.
What’s Happening Down Tunnels? A Brief Update on Byelaw and Cycling
Greenwich Council (RBG), managers of both tunnels, have succeeded in confusing everyone, including fogwoft, over the last 18 months about what is happening in the foot tunnels. Here is my best interpretation of what is happening and fogwoft’s position on the two linked issues of (a) the tunnels byelaw and (b) the movement management project (MMP). First, a bit of history.
Before the tunnel refurb was finished in 2014, RBG asked fogwoft to partner them in a bid for funds from the Mayor’s “Incubator Fund” to trial a MMP. We agreed. That bid failed the following year but RBG persisted with the Mayor and got funding in 2015 for a trial. That would simply allow cycling when foot traffic is low and not when it is high. The Project was highly dependent on a high tech approach and also required a change in the byelaw (1915 updated 1938).
Fogwoft was kept informed and attended a preliminary seminar about the Project late 2016. We asked a few questions but still agreed to partner RBG and the other 2 Boroughs on a trial basis. It was agreed that there would be a short technical trail and then, when the byelaw was changed a full operational trial with good publicity and a “behavioural management” component (carrots and sticks put simply).
Introduction, and Suspension, of MMP
The system went live technically in April 2016 and kept going … Finally fogwoft at its AGM in 2017 decided to request a complete review of what was happening and had a meeting with RBG in June 2017. At this we asked for the MMP system to be suspended and for a sight of the new byelaw. There was no draft, but one emerged several weeks later. Fogwoft’s comments are on website – briefly we welcomed the draft byelaw with some revisions. These were not accepted and we’ll make them again during the public consultation. Fogwoft did insist that any trials should not begin till the byelaw is changed, till terms of reference (ToR) for the MMP trial are agreed with us and till there is a decent behavioural management plan published.
What May Happen Now
Changing the byelaw is a slow process. It needs agreement with the other 2 Boroughs, then public consultation and then agreement by Sec of State. That’s what we understand. Till then we will continue to call for a suspension of the MMP but fogwoft have drafted ToR (attached) which have been accepted as the basis for discussion by RBG. My guess is that the stages will not be finished till at least Spring 2018.
The critical point will be the Public Consultation on the new Byelaw.
Public opposition to any relaxation of the ban on cycling is growing on the Isle of Dogs and that is expressing itself in opposition in Tower Hamlets (LBTH) to the byelaw change itself.
Delay or Derailment?
The Greenwich FT has banned cycling for 115 years. This is an opportunity to allow it under certain circumstances. But the process could come unstuck for a number of reasons. We believe that tightening the byelaw wording and agreeing ToR for the MMP are critical issues in which fogwoft can play a constructive role.
We will publicise the forthcoming Consultation: please have your say in that
Greenwich South Lift Failure
Fogwoft have asked questions of Greenwich Council about the extended south lift failure in Greenwich foot tunnel. The answers are given unexpurgated below with our questions in bold.
We make no comments as yet except that this comes after a time when lift service was comparatively good and the problem appears to have been caused by an action by the fire service. Fogwoft also noted however, at the time of the publication of the Wilmoth report (2013), that problems may recur and could be due to an original overdesign of the lifts especially of their doors.
We will be asking for further information after the current problems have been resolved.
“1. a time schedule for completion
I am sorry I am unable to provide this. As you’ll have seen from my email to Cllr Smith the over-winding caused a range of damage. This could not be fully assessed until the scaffolding was erected within the shaft (which in itself was a major exercise) allowing the lift to be released. Thankfully the lift cables were not damaged, as first feared, but damage to the top of the car needs several replacement parts which are not stock items. These are therefore on order from the German supplier. A technician is on standby to fit these parts as soon as they arrive.
Following the parts being fitted some further work may still be required but that won’t be known until the lift is moving. I can assure you we are pressing the various parties hard to get the lift back in operation as soon as practicably possible.
2. whether costs will delay any completion or if the repair is under warranty
The damage is due to over-winding of the manual lifting gear and is therefore not something that is covered by warranty. We are taking a number of steps to try and avoid a repeat including:
· Following up our earlier communications to the London Fire Brigade to explain the situation and
· Seeking a meeting and arranging a training session with key members of the LFB to ensure a future repeat is avoided
· Reviewing the call out procedures. The lift contractor is required be on site within one hour of call so in most circumstances issues would be dealt with by expert engineers familiar with the tunnel lifts and there should be no need for the LFB to attend site.
3. an assurance that the cause of the problem will not affect both lifts in future
With the above steps a repeat of this should be avoided.
4. whether a preventative maintenance schedule can, and will, be put in place to avert future major disruptions
There is already very frequent planned preventative maintenance. This includes scheduled monthly maintenance shut downs of each lift to replace parts on a pre-planned basis, service the equipment and complete safety checks. I am confident that our maintenance regime is “fit for purpose”. However if operational experience identifies additional maintenance that would make the operation more reliable/better for users we will, of course, give proper consideration to adding it to the regime.
5. whether such major lift failures will not result in the closure of the tunnels per se.
There are no plans, and I cannot foresee a situation, where a lift failure would result in a closure of one or both tunnels save for the most extreme event that requires the tunnel to be temporarily evacuated.”
Greenwich to Consider New Bye-Laws for Tunnels
Fogwoft have examined the Draft (for GFT only) collectively. We welcome the key changes, the new realistic level of fines and the relaxation of some banned activities by the use of written (or licence) permissions by the Council (acoustic music can be humanising).
Now is not the time to suggest detailed edits. There will be time for all after Council Cabinet (12th July) for consultation. Nor is it time to look forward to the renewal of the Movement Management Scheme (MMS) and its operation under the new bye-law. The enforcement of any bye-law is critical and difficult, but we hope you can discuss the operations before the bye-law comes into force. We expect this not to be before 2018. Before then we recommend a full, best public discussion, of all these operations and would be keen to participate.
One major point that did strike us, however, was the definition of “vehicle” in Clause 3. This omits many forms of wheeled device whose use can be problematic in the tunnels. Skateboards, Scooters, Roller-blades* and -skates, Segways, and devices yet undreamed of should be covered. So should unicycles, perhaps by changing “bicycle” to “cycle”. (One of our committee just happens to be a unicyclist). Cl. 3 appears to ban any of these from being carried through the tunnel as well as being ridden. We won’t suggest an amendment, since the lawyers must have some form of wording, but recommend that “vehicle” should be defined up top.
We also suggest that, if the use of wheeled devices is to be permitted anywhere, its boundaries should be absolutely clear. That, we think, should only be between any signage permitting such riding. The bye-law itself may not be the place to write this in (since you may want it to be flexible) but the publicity campaign should make it clear. We should remember that fogwoft called for a suspension of the MMS because it was sending wholly unclear messages to tunnel users. Please let’s avoid that in future.
The proposed new bye-laws and a comparison with the existing may be viewed here; go to page 152 following.
How many people are using the tunnels?
Usage data for both the Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels (GFT and WFT) are shown in the tables below. The data should be treated with caution since collection and analysis methods differed over time. Manual part-day counts gave way to automatic counts and wholly manual analysis to electronic. The data here is scaled to 24 hour 2 way flows. The new CCTV gives night time data which can be used to scale up part-day counts.
The data distinguishes between pedestrians and cyclists. This is how it’s presented here although some of the earlier manual counts differentiated more finely (such as between pedestrians with buggies, wheelchairs etc.). Fogwoft is exploring whether the CCTV data capture may distinguish between walking and riding cyclists.
Usage growth since 2012
The longest time period is for weekday use of the GFT beginning in 2009 and ending (as all the data does) in 2016 (Sept). The graph below shows the results. Interpretation should be cautious but some simple lessons may be drawn:
- Usage seems to have recovered from the refurbishment disruption (2010-2014)
- Since 2012 pedestrian traffic has grown fastest (about 40% a year)
- Cyclist traffic has grown about 15% a year, and total usage about 30%
- The high pedestrian usage in August 2014 may well just reflect peak tourist season
Data for GFT weekend and all Woolwich use only begins in 2014. We should treat these figures with even more caution, but so far:
- GFT Sunday use has grown about 10% a year
- WFT weekday and Sunday use has grown at less than 10% and about 20% respectively.
Demand to cross the river is growing fast, on foot or by cycle
Whatever the likely data errors, these results appear to point to high growth, especially on weekdays for the GFT. Comparative data for 2017 may confirm this and will be available after September. If it confirms these trends then there is clear evidence of high and growing demand for people to cross the river with or without bikes. All those engaged in transport planning should take note of this and respond with better infrastructure for walkers and cyclists.
Growth of Usage in Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels to 2016
Total 2 Way 24 hour Flows
Greenwich Peds Cyclists Total Woolwich Peds Cyclists Total
May-09 Monday 1972 1612 3584
Sep-09 Wednesday 2707 1676 4383
May-12 Monday 1348 1187 2535
Sep-12 Wednesday 1739 1535 3274
Feb-14 Wednesday 1729 1576 3485
Aug-14 Wednesday 3910 1824 5734 Aug-14 Wednesday 670 314 984
Sep-15 Wednesday 2252 2160 4412 Sep-15 Wednesday 652 403 1055
Sep-16 Wednesday 3873 1878 5751 Sep-16 Wednesday 804 459 1263
Monday May 2009 is shown for illustration only since it was based on a disrupted count
Aug-14 Sunday 3385 596 3981 Aug-14 Sunday 412 139 551
Sep-15 Sunday 4438 847 5285 Sep-15 Sunday 678 149 827
Sep-16 Sunday 3873 1878 5751 Sep-16 Sunday 806 203 1009
Click here to see a graph : usage graph
The Trial Goes On
You will notice electronic signs in the tunnel asking cyclists either not to cycle or to behave considerately. This is part of a trial of a system that will allow slow cycling through the tunnel.
For now, the system is only being technically tried
We expect the trial to go live in early 2017
This is because Byelaw changes take a long time and the current byelaws do not allow cycling at all.
Use the tunnel considerately whether you are a cyclist, pedestrian or have a scooter or skate-board and please be patient for the rest of 2016.
After all, we have waited 115 years to be allowed to cycle in this foot tunnel.
We welcome new projects and a new Honorary President for 2016
At its second AGM on 25 January, held in the Town Hall, fogwoft welcomed the anticipated completion of improvements to both tunnels.
These cover the long awaited “App” giving alerts of lift status, and a planned new sign in Cutty Sark Gardens interpreting the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. The Borough is leading an ambitious scheme to better manage movements in both tunnels. Some may remember that this stalled in 2014, due to lack of Transport for London funding, but is back on track to be completed this spring.
Long term fogwoft priorities include better signs, especially at Woolwich, and a better recognition of that tunnel’s location when the surrounding area is redeveloped.
Finally fogwoft honoured the designer of the Greenwich Tunnel and great Victorian engineer, Sir Alexander Binnie, by electing his great grandson, Chris Binnie, as Honorary President.
28 January 2016
New tunnel movement management project comes alive again
Fogwoft and others were briefed about the proposed “movement management system” for both tunnels at a meeting at the Woolwich Centre on 18 November. The new system will be trialled first in Woolwich tunnel, hopefully by Christmas, before being installed in the much more used Greenwich tunnel in the new year.
The system is experimental and could be a model for other short routes where pedestrians and cyclists share limited space. The design appears simple and would appear not to overload users with too much information. It’s best to see the concept as traffic lights that will reinforce when cyclists must dismount and walk because of heavy tunnel use.
Fogwoft is a partner to this project, funded mainly by Transport for London, as are the Boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham. The project, when coupled with behavioural change management measures and perhaps random enforcement, could both enhance the capacity of the tunnels and reduce the friction between tunnel users.
We are certain that the system will not please everyone. There will however be a carefully-designed “satisfaction study” after it goes live. Only new purpose-built pedestrian and cycling tunnels, like that in Newcastle, would satisfy the demand for truly sustainable river crossings.
We will post more detailed news on this very welcome project when further briefed.
22 November 2015
Recent data from the Royal Borough and comment from us can be viewed here : Foot Tunnel Lift Performance 2014-15
Fogwoft talks to the Royal Borough again
Fogwoft members, Mary Mills, Ian Blore and John Philips met with Tim Jackson and Mark Hodgson of Greenwich to discuss tunnel management. This followed a hiatus after the failed bid to TfL to install an experimental cycling management system in both tunnels.
The meeting ranged over reports on traffic counts and lift performance (which we will soon post on this site) to the proposed remote lift alert system and tunnel maintenance and signs.
The new remote lift status alert system should be active in 2 months. It will consist of a simple webpage available on any internet device, plus a twitter feed which will alert followers of any change in lift status. We hope to be involved in the trials, and whole-heartedly welcome the initiative. It will, at least, save some wasted journeys for tunnel users.
We agreed that the benches in the Greenwich tunnel, continually vandalised, not be replaced but asked for better masking of the scored graffiti on the wood panelling of those lifts.
A new sign outside entrances, perhaps to both tunnels, was discussed which may help tourists distinguish them from public toilets, and would contain heritage information. Another sign on the bomb damage part of the Greenwich tunnel was raised. There was agreement however to keep the space uncluttered as far as possible.
Fogwoft have heard that discussions between the Borough and Transport for London, to fund an experimental system to manage the increasing traffic in the tunnel, have been successful. The scheme will be fleshed out in consultation with us. It will however try to control cycling when many are using the tunnel but allow it when there are few users. We’ll keep you posted about this on this site and on twitter. We have agreed to be partners in the experiment. If you have strong feelings please send us an email.
Ian Blore, 1 June 2015
Woolwich south lift down for 8 days in August
The south lift of the Woolwich tunnel was out of action for 8 days (8 to 14 August) due to serious vandalism of its doors. We have called on Greenwich Council again to warn us early of serious outages for whatever reason. We have also asked for serious discussions about the use of the revamped CCTV systems in both tunnels. Could we also ask the public to either tweet or let us know about lift breakdown?
The serious outage at Woolwich marred a good month for all tunnel lifts as the most recent report of the Council shows.
Ian Blore, 2 September 2014
Both lifts working at Woolwich
On Saturday, 31st May, a group travelled through the Woolwich Foot Tunnel using the new lifts. They then took the Woolwich Ferry to admire the refurbished roofs and the lack of hoardings and scaffolding. New lights now need to be installed and the tunnel deep-cleaned. But everyone was relieved that, after nearly 5 years, the tunnel is working again.
Ian Blore, 5th June 2014
End of refurbishment works in sight
The scaffolding is now coming down at the Woolwich Tunnel and both sites are starting to be cleared. The Woolwich North lift went into service at the end of last week without incident, and the South lift there should be operating next week.
The green of the pre-patinated copper roof may look a little too green, but it’s as agreed as part of the listed building consent and the roofing contractor assures us that it will tone down a bit over the next few months.
At Greenwich the lamps in all the emergency lights (the ones with a little green LED in them) need to be replaced by warm lights. There are about sixty to do. The mix may look a little odd to start with but after a year should be getting close to a uniform light colour.
Static signage is going up at both sites except the lift status indicators, and a tunnel wash is scheduled in the Greenwich tunnel for next week. There has been some slippage in timing, of about 4 weeks in total. With the exception of the lighting at Woolwich (which has only just started) the works are coming to an end. We can all breathe a sigh of relief and move onto the next issues, which are those of considerate use and the visual enhancement of the tunnels.
Ian Blore, 24th May 2014
New lights are now being installed in the Greenwich Tunnel
The lights are being completed in sections from the north to south and will limit traffic through the work areas to single file during the works. The first section of new lights are bright white lights; the second section lights will be softer.
Could you comment which you prefer? We are in dialogue with the Borough Council about possible adjustment if the new lights are considered too bright or harsh. First, though we’d like your views. Post them on the blog or send us an email.
Ian Blore, Sec., Fogwoft
Stairwells Closed at Greenwich Tunnel
Both north and south stairwells will be closed for about 2 weeks between 8am and 3.30pm on weekdays. This is to allow the painting of the stairwells with least disruption.
Let us hope the lifts do not fail during this time.
14th March 2014
Tunnel Refurbishment Works Programme
(January- April 2014)
In outline, this is the programme the Royal Borough provided us with and is working to. It would be helpful if users could send fogwoft details if the programme appears to be behind schedule.
Woolwich – lifts
‘First fix’ complete by 2nd working week in January – final works / testing & commissioning to follow completion of roof installation (so lifts will appear to be installed but not working for two months or so)
Woolwich – roofs
Installation to start as soon as possible after Christmas. 12 week programme for each
Greenwich North – rotunda roof
To start immediately after Christmas. Basic 5/6 week installation period
Tunnel lighting improvements
Final programme to be agreed; works can be done without closing tunnels (pedestrians and bikes will need to be in single file past rolling secured works area), complete by April over about a 5 week period
Other Mechanical & Electrical Works
To be undertaken without tunnel closures
There are two areas remaining for instructions – one is remedial painting to Greenwich shafts and the other is around the final form of the remote alerts / info system for the lifts.