The Greenwich Foot Tunnel is a pedestrian tunnel crossing beneath the River Thames in South East London. It is currently undergoing refurbishment with works due for completion by March 2011.
Designed by civil engineer Sir Alexander Binnie, the Greenwich Foot Tunnel was opened on 4 August 1902. It replaced an expensive and unreliable ferry service, and was intended to allow workers living south of the Thames to reach the docks and shipyards situated on the Isle of Dogs (currently where the tall buildings in Canary Wharf are located).
The entrance shafts are capped by glazed domes, with lifts and spiral staircases allowing pedestrians to reach the sloping, tile-lined tunnel at the bottom. The cast-iron tunnel itself is 370.2 m (1,217 ft) long, 15.2 m deep and has an internal diameter of about 9 feet (3 m). In layman's terms, it's not that wide or tall. Its cast-iron rings are lined with concrete which has been surfaced with about 200,000 white glazed tiles. The northern end was damaged by bombs during World War II and the repairs include a thick steel and concrete inner lining that reduces the diameter substantially for a short distance. This is the 'shonky' part near the lift shaft where it's even narrower.
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel cost £127,000 to build (in 1902) which would buy one half of a small flat in Greenwich these days. There are approximately 100 steps at either end. If tunnel facts and figures are your thing, the nearby Blackwall Tunnel (road traffic) is interesting in several respects. It has wild kinks and doglegs running along its length, which were deliberately built into the design. This was to prevent the horses pulling the waggons and omnibuses from bolting for the exit. If they could see the exit, they'd make a run for it - but if it was obscured until the last minute, it calmed them. One of the ventilation shafts from the Blackwall Tunnel is inside the Millennium Dome and pokes through the outer skin. This is because it's Grade 2 listed, and could not be altered when the Dome was built - so they simply built around it.
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel is a convenient link between Greenwich town centre on the southern side— the entrance is close to the tea clipper Cutty Sark (also being refurbished after fire damage) — and Island Gardens to the north.
The tunnel is classed as a public highway and therefore by law is kept open 24 hours a day. However, the attendant-operated lift service is only open from 7am to 7pm on weekdays and Saturdays, 10am-5.30pm on Sundays, with no service on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.
Greenwich Foot Tunnel, Greenwich Pier, SE10 9BG.
Cutty Sark or Greenwich DLR, Greenwich Rail. (Island Gardens DLR for the other side)