Frustration as lift at Woolwich Foot Tunnel has been out of use since August 2022

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Greenwich residents are ‘frustrated’ that a lift for a foot tunnel under the Thames has been out of use for over 18 months.

Woolwich Foot Tunnel sits in the north of Greenwich borough and connects Woolwich on the south bank of the river to North Woolwich in Newham.

Ferenc Habermann, 46, says he uses the tunnel nearly every day for cycling and to get to work in East London. The local said he regularly has to carry his bike up and down the stairs of the tunnel entrances due to the lifts often being unavailable.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “I have to carry the bike up and down the stairs twice a day on the north side of the tunnel. So when you go in the morning you carry it down and then carry it up, and then in the afternoon you do the same the other way round.”

The tunnel is managed by Greenwich Council and is reportedly used by 300,000 people a year. A listing on the authority’s website, updated on April 19, stated that the south lift in the foot tunnel had been available 54 per cent of the time between February and April this year, while the north lift has been out of service since August 21 2022. The council said it was aware of ongoing issues with the lifts and that they are vulnerable to unpredictable faults due to their age.

Woolwich Foot Tunnel South Entrance

Mr Habermann said: “It is frustrating and what I don’t understand is, how does the council justify the increase in council tax and then not provide services which should be there?”

Greenwich Council said on its website that the most common cause of breakdown for the lifts is the doors failing to close, due to objects being in the way or people forcing them open. Other issues included exceeding the lift capacity, repeatedly pressing buttons and jamming the lift doors.

Resident Paul Murphy said on X last month: “The Woolwich Foot Tunnel north lift has been out of action for over 18 months. What does it take for Greenwich Council to replace it? I am so sick of waiting.”

Labour Councillor Calum O’Byrne Mulligan asked at a council meeting on March 27 what steps were being taken to improve the lift service at the foot tunnel.

Labour Councillor Averil Lekau, cabinet member for transport, said the efficiency of Woolwich Foot Tunnel and Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which connects Cutty Sark to Island Gardens in Tower Hamlets, was a topic of great concern to her.

Cllr Lekau said at the meeting: “We had a meeting very recently with someone from the Mayor’s office and TfL and we’ve agreed to convene a round table discussion with both Tower Hamlets and Newham to resolve the issues of all the tunnels, the lifts and so on and so forth.”

The cabinet member said in a written response that the work to bring the north lift of the tunnel back in service had been delayed and was expected to take place in June this year. She added that the lifts would be working and available to use more regularly in the next few years as they work on addressing the issues. However she warned major investment was needed to permanently fix them.

A Greenwich Council spokesperson said: “We’re sorry that the Woolwich Foot Tunnel north lift is out of order and the inconvenience this has caused. We’re in the final stages of developing a proposal to address the issues with the north lift.”

They added: “The tunnel remains open 24 hours a day and the stairs are not affected. The south side lift is working. Unfortunately the lifts are vulnerable to unpredictable faults, due to their historic nature. We update our website regularly with status updates for the foot tunnel lifts and hope to have the lift up and running soon.”


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