Thursday, April 28, 2022

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

London The Unfinished City
The entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel at Greenwich.

Of the roughly 40 tunnels beneath the River Thames, the majority of which carry utilities, railway lines and motor vehicles, only three allow pedestrians to use them: The Greenwich Foot tunnel, the Woolwich Foot tunnel and the Rotherhithe tunnel, although the latter is not advisable, unless you want to look like a chimney sweep and breathe in noxious fumes. 

The Greenwich foot tunnel, which I have traversed on numerous occasions, is the oldest pedestrian foot tunnel in London, linking Greenwich with Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs.

The south entrance is located in front of the Cutty Sark, while the north entrance is situated in Island Gardens.

You have the option of descending the stairs or wait for the lift to be free. I always take the stairs, which spiral down to the white-tiled tunnel.

Running in a straight line, it takes roughly 8 minutes to traverse. 

London The Unfinished City
The Greenwich foot tunnel.

The northern end has some thick concrete and steel lining, which covers bomb damage from World War II, that does narrow the interior of the tunnel for a short distance.

London The Unfinished City

London The Unfinished City
Bomb damage repairs.

Brief History

Designed by Sir Alexander Binnie, construction of the tunnel began in 1899 and opened in 1902. It allowed for a simpler crossing than the expensive and sometimes unreliable ferry that was the main way of crossing the river in this area.

The domed entrances had lifts installed beneath them in 1904 allowing more people to use the thoroughfare.

London The Unfinished City
Looking up through the roof of the south foot tunnel entrance.

  • The south entrance has 100 steps.
  • The north entrance has 87 steps.
  • The tunnel is 1,215 feet long.
  • The tunnel is roughly 9 feet in diameter.
  • The tunnel is 50 feet deep. 
  • Over 200,000 white tiles line the majority of its length.
  • Both entrances are Grade II Listed
  • Roughly 4000 people use the tunnel daily.
  • Cyclists are not permitted to cycle through the tunnel.
  • The tunnel is NOT a public right of way, as the tunnel is private property.
  • The tunnel is part of National Cycle Route 1
  • The tunnel is part of the Thames Path

London The Unfinished City
The north entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel.

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