Woolwich tunnel 101st birthday with Saturday morning ‘walk through’

Restoration work resumes next week after months of delay at the Woolwich Thames pedestrian tunnel—which celebrates its 101st anniversary tomorrow with a Saturday morning mass ‘walk through’.

Assurances were made at a meeting the newly-formed Friends of the Greenwich & Woolwich Foot Tunnels had on Monday with Greenwich Council over the project grinding to a halt, it has emerged.

The tunnels beneath the Thames were the engineering wonder of post-Edwardian London, the result of a campaign by east London MP and former Poplar councillor Will Crooks for dockers to get to work at the Royal and Millwall docks.

But the £11 million restorations a century on have been marred by controversy over delays. The Willmoth Inquiry report last month criticised “design inadequacies” of the project.

The Friends’ publicist Dr Francis Sedgemore said: “There were serious questions about the contract administration and engineering responsibilities of contractors.”

The group’s chair Dr Mary Mills and secretary Ian Blore met top council officials and raised the contract problems that led to the consortium carrying out the renovation being sacked.

The main concern was the lifts at Woolwich that still haven’t been replaced.

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Now the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ can finally be seen with restoration work resuming. Work on both tunnels should be completed by the end of March, with lighting improved, stairwells revamped and the Woolwich lifts replaced, they were told.

The Greenwich tunnel linking Millwall’s Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs to the Cutty Sark is closing overnight between 8pm and 5am throughout November while work is carried out.

Consultations have also begun through the Friends organisation on whether to deep-clean the wall tiles or have a complete tile makeover. Some pedestrians suggest a subterranean art gallery, possibly a frieze showing maritime life along the Thames. Opinions can be emailed to fogwoft3@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, the Friends are recreating the original 1912 opening event of the Woolwich Tunnel when hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists turn up to stage a walk-through tomorrow morning.

Cyclists are setting of at 10am from the Cutty Sark heading east to the Woolwich Tunnel where they are joined at 11am by pedestrians for the half-mile ‘walk through’ under the Thames to North Woolwich, then back again by the Woolwich Ferry. They follow in the footsteps of London County Council VIPs in 1912.