Friends given site tours of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels refurbishment

Below is a press release distributed this morning concerning the refurbishment of the Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels, used daily by many cycling commuters...

 

PRESS RELEASE

Friends given site tours of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels refurbishment

Following two constructive meetings with a council cabinet member and transport executive, representatives of the Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels have viewed at first hand the tunnel refurbishment works. The Royal Borough of Greenwich has promised Fogwoft and the wider local community that the renovation work will be completed by the end of April 2014. Going by the progress made thus far, it looks as if this target may be met. Some of the work is said to be ahead of schedule.

During the second week of January, Fogwoft members Mary Mills, Ian Blore, John Phillips and Francis Sedgemore joined construction project manager Mike Neill and two senior borough engineers, who guided the Friends around the cupolas and through the tunnels at both Greenwich and Woolwich. Various features of these historic structures were discussed, and Mr Neill explained in considerable detail the issues involved in the renovation work, focusing in particular on lifts, tunnel wall tiles and lighting.

One point highlighted during the Greenwich tour is the environmental sensitivity of power electronics in comparison with the electro-mechanical switches used in the original Victorian era tunnel lifts. Modern electronic switching systems are highly sensitive to temperature and humidity, and refuse to cooperate unless the conditions are just right. This could explain at least some of the lift failures experienced in recent times. Air conditioning and ventilation are crucial, but this is an engineering challenge given that they have to be built around listed structures.

One complaint often made about the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels concerns the dim lighting. With two rows of lights along the length of each tunnel, and an increase in wattage, the light intensity is set to increase from 40 to 150 lux. Two of the Fogwoft tour members with engineering knowledge feel that such bright artificial light in a tightly confined space could disorient tunnel users moving to and from nighttime outside environments. This should be considered before new lights are installed.

Such technical issues aside, Fogwoft feels that the borough is finally on the right track as regards the Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels. Going by what Fogwoft has observed both within the tunnels and behind the scenes, we have greater confidence in the new contractors retained by the Royal Borough of Greenwich, and trust that the work will be completed on time and to budget.

These issues and more will be discussed at Fogwoft's first public meeting since the inauguration of the group in September of last year. The next general meeting of Fogwoft is to be held in Room 4 of the West Greenwich Community and Arts Centre, 141 Greenwich High Road, SE10 8JA, beginning at 19:30. All are welcome, and tea and coffee will be provided.

ENDS

Available: a photograph by Francis Sedgemore of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel south cupola, taken from the inside, showing the lift mechanism and ventilation shaft.

 

Media contact: Dr Francis Sedgemore (07840 191336; www.sedgemore.com)
Fogwoft website: www.fogwoft.com
Fogwoft Twitter: twitter.com/fogwoft

Replies

And this was posted to the forum of the London Cycling Campaign because.....

Because the foot tunnels are used extensively by cyclists commuting to and from work in central London. Otherwise, to the west of Greenwich it's Tower Bridge, or the Rotherhithe tunnel if one wishes to live dangerously. The state of the foot tunnels is of considerable concern to London cyclists.

OK sorry I wasn't aware of this fact.

The engineering members would have suggested re: "the environmental sensitivity of power electronics in comparison with the electro-mechanical switches used in the original Victorian era" be countered with use of waterproof nano coatings, if not too expensive. And

re "dim lighting.. two rows of lights along.. each tunnel, and.. light intensity..set to increase. Fogwoft.. feel that such bright artificial light in a tightly confined space could disorient tunnel users moving to and from nighttime outside environment".

Turn one row off at night, or dim them. They would be aware of the practice of having bright lighting entering a tunnel from sunshine and near exit to allow eyes to adjust. Same principles in reverse for night, dim lighting near entry & exit, full brightness in between. Tho' I've only noticed this on road tunnels :)

As a physicist and science/engineering journalist with experience in the nanotechnology field, I can tell you that "nano coatings" covers a multitude of sins. In any case, such deposits will not help much in this case, other than to waterproof the switching mechanism.

Adapting the light level in the tunnel according to time of day is worth considering, but in my view it would be simpler and cheaper to have a constant light level that is bright enough for comfort and safety, but no more.

Have they done anything to stop the aggressive city boys on thousands of pounds worth of carbon fibre ingnoring the no cycling signs and barging past pedestrians?

In reply to the straw man (!)...

Er, no.

There is no longer any human supervision of tunnel use, and this is one of Fogwoft's complaints. We are looking to promote considerate use of the foot tunnels by all, not just cyclists, but this necessarily requires oversight and policing.

One of the things we are looking at is the approach taken by the Canal and River Trust. LCC member Dick Vincent is a towpath ranger employed by the Trust, and is responsible for the shared use campaign and signage on London's waterways. Whilst the Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels are not shared use, we can I hope learn from the positive behavioural engineering approach taken by others in similarish situations.

BTW, We have published a brief history of the foot tunnels refurbishment fiasco...

http://fogwoft.com/history

Francis

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