Just downstream from the Cutty Sark the Victorian foot tunnel has been undergoing a refurbishment over the last few years. Not only a popular tourist attraction, it actually provides both pedestrian and cyclist access to the Isle of Dogs with its mega business complex at Canary Wharf.
First built to enable labour to get to the north bank dock system (remember, no DLR or Jubilee Line then), once a busy ferry provided a passenger link and later a horse ferry which enabled the passage of goods. Remains can be clearly seen today – the slipways and trackways are exposed at low tide.
The saga of the foot tunnel refurbishment here and at a similar structure at Woolwich requires knowledgeable comment from engineers and the paymaster. However, automation has removed the lift attendants who kept a security look out as well as controlling youngsters who just loved to yell out for the amazing echo to come to pass. Earnest cyclists being invited to dismount, an interesting race of bike pushers in both directions adds to the drama down below. A slight rumble of the DLR can be heard when calm descends.
The saga of a delayed and troublesome upgrade has gained much press comment and inconvenience to the brigade of cyclists who commute daily to and fro through the traffic-free tunnel to Canary Wharf and the City beyond. My long-standing friend Bill McCausted manages Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels and is the sole survivor of an experienced and gleeful team who once manned the lifts at either end. A matching glazed dome is now being fitted at the Island Gardens end which I can clearly see as I write.