General Meeting – January 2014

Minutes from the General Meeting of the
Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels

On Thursday, 23rd January 2014 at Greenwich West

1. Present and Apologies
Present: Mary Mills (Chair), BJ Smith, David B Wooley, Ron Bakere, John Phillips, Francis Sedgemore, Ian Blore, Mike Shallcross, Caroline Fenton, Justin Andrew, Paul Aldridge, Celia Gomez
Apologies were received from Parm Mahil, Richard Sullivan, David Dennison, Matt Pennycook, Gloria Thiennel and Anthony Austin

2. Matters arising from the Minutes of the Inaugural Meeting

3. Committee Vacancies and Elections
There were two vacancies announced at the GM; Parm Mahil representing Tower Hamlets and Richard Sullivan. The meeting agreed that the existing committee members should be allowed to co-opt one representative for TH and one for Woolwich.

4. Finance
John Phillips spoke to his written report. In summary this noted that a bank account had been opened with Barclays. Pledges and seed finance had been kindly donated from several local amenity organisations (viz: Greenwich Cyclists, the Greenwich Society, the Westcombe Society, and the Greenwich Industrial History Society). The balance of such pledges amounted to about £250.
There was a suggestion to introduce a subscription and there appeared a consensus to introduce a modest fee. It was confirmed that the Friends of Island Gardens had a subscription rate of £5 for individuals and £7 for families. A formal proposal would be put to the next General Meeting.

5. Progress on Tunnel Refurbishment
Ian Blore reported on progress as shown during site tours on the 9th and 10th January and in discussions with the Borough. A summary schedule of works is on the Fogwoft website. Key points were that work appears to be on schedule to finish in April (Greenwich) and May (Woolwich). No disruption is expected excepting the installation of new lighting. This will require sections of the tunnels to be reduced to one lane whilst the new lights are installed.
A Q&A session raised the following issues:
• It was expected that the works would be finished before the London Marathon
• Woolwich lifts would be finished well before being brought into operation, to allow the roof to be completed
• The new Greenwich lifts suffer from the environmental over-sensitivity of electronic switching mechanisms, and climate control measures have had to be retro-fitted. This could explain some of the lift failures experienced in recent times. Automatic information panels are planned for each tunnel entrance, to warn of lift failures and other issues.”
• There was a suggestion to co-ordinate with the DLR (perhaps to allow one stop free travel under the river) when lifts may be down for some period
• A suggestion to make better use of CCTV film was to be taken up in the next meeting with the Borough.

6. Options for Managing Considerate Use
Francis Sedgemore spoke to the options for cycling (and skating etc) in the tunnels. Four options (the current ban, full shared use, timed shared use and speed limited use) were outlined. Whichever was chosen, he argued that a strategy to try to change behaviour and encourage more consideration for other users was necessary, citing the campaigns by the Canal and River Trust as possible models. Any change would need to go to public consultation (as in the case of the Cutty Sark Gardens) and he personally (not on behalf of fogwoft) favoured a continued prohibition because of the physical nature of the tunnels.
The following discussion raised a number of issues and put forward some suggestions:
• There is no hard evidence that a greater proportion of users with cycles are cycling
• There is no evidence of reported accidents
• There appears to be no enforcement of the current by-laws whilst the signage is old and hardly friendly
• Night time cycling was proposed for personal safety reasons, a point with which there was much sympathy
• A proposal to lay astro-turf to slow down wheeled traffic was made and means to slow wheeled traffic were discussed
• It was agreed that better signs and visual improvements in the tunnels could help better behaviour
• A suggestion to link to an online voting site to allow people to vote on the options was made.
It was agreed that Fogwoft should take the approach forward with the Borough and investigate using an online voting process for its own consulation. Night-time cycling and cycling when the tunnel is empty was felt to be exceptions that would be most acceptable.

7. Mechanisms to Enhance Visual Appearance
John Phillips raised the issues of Tiling, Signage (internal and external), Lighting and future Artwork. Deep cleaning of the tiles will be undertaken but it will take several subsequent cleanings before a real difference shows. The Borough had indicated its willingness to budget for better signs both to signpost the tunnels’ existence and for information within each tunnel. John demonstrated the existing and possible future lighting strengths. It was agreed that, if too bright, we may suggest reducing the strength once installed.
A wide-ranging discussion highlighted:
• Where had the previous notices gone? A photo of the plaque that used to be in the Greenwich lifts was discovered and it was agreed that the Borough should be asked to at least replace some of the information notices
• The absence of a postcard showing the tunnels; the kiosk owner from Island Gardens would investigate producing one
• Points such as that kiosk (and the cycle repair point in Island Gardens) could be used to publicise events and to help encourage more considerate use.

8. Future Events
It was agreed to hold an event to mark the completion of the Greenwich Tunnel refurbishment in mid-April (before the local election purdah period). Other future events could fit with local festivals.

9. Date for Next General Meeting
The next public meeting would be held in June and an AGM in October.

10. Any Other Business
There was no other business.
The meeting ended at 9pm.