GREENWICH Council is considering legal action over the £11.4m refurbishment of two Thames foot tunnels which remains unfinished, two-and-a-half years after it began.

The government-funded Woolwich and Greenwich tunnels project has been plagued by problems, which opposition councillors say are the result of council incompetence.

Dean and Dyball Civil Engineering was appointed in 2010 to manage the refurbishment contract but, after a host of delays, the council took control of the project late last year.

Though the Greenwich lifts reopened in March, they have suffered numerous breakdowns, while much work is unfinished and mystery still surrounds an incident in August where people inside the Greenwich tunnel were taken ill.

A council spokeswoman said: "The work is now substantially over budget and while seeking to complete the works as expeditiously as possible, the council will be seeking to recover costs from previous contractors through negotiation, contract dispute resolution and possibly litigation."

She added: "The Royal Borough of Greenwich shares the frustration of tunnel users and the general public over the time taken to complete this project and apologises for the ongoing delays to this work.

"Legal advice is being sought from a firm of specialist construction lawyers to determine any case for recovering the additional costs from the contractors."

But leader of Greenwich Conservatives Councillor Spencer Drury said "This is a shocking tale of mismanagement which proves yet again that this council simply doesn’t know what its doing. 

"This is a well used facility in Greenwich and essentially all that was needed was the lifts replacing and the tunnels repainting. It seems that after years and millions of pounds, the labour council can’t even manage that."

Greenwich Council's cabinet will consider a report on the fiasco, along with an inquiry into how it handles major projects, on Wednesday (Oct 17).

Woolwich foot tunnel will mark its 100th birthday later this month.


Feb 2010 - Council accept a tender from Dean & Dyball Civil Engineering (DDCE) for the refurbishment of both foot tunnels. Work scheduled for completion in 12 months.

March 2010 - Work starts but fails to run to schedule and exceeds cost estimates.

September 2011 - DDCE agrees new programme of work to have lifts operational by Christmas. Council officers begin "intense scrutiny" of the project and estimate the deadline won't be met.

Late 2011 - DDCE asked to vacate site by December 16. Project managers Messrs Sweett and quantity surveyors Hyder Consulting see role terminated. Council takes control.

March 2012 - The Greenwich tunnel opens with new lifts. Woolwich tunnel opens but without lifts. Work has since stopped.

September 2012 - Cabinet member for regeneration Councillor Denis Hyland blames "significant unforeseen difficulties associated with the complexity of the structures and contractual arrangements".