Friday, 18 September 2009

Greenwich foot tunnel closures will be "short"

If you live in SE London you may have heard of the gathering campaign to stop the refurbishment of Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels.

The story, feverishly promoted by several local residents, is that the tunnels will be closed for "up to 18 months" leaving cyclists and pedestrians stranded on the southern shore of the Thames.

In one shock opening local hack Andrew Gilligan told us that:

"GREENWICH foot tunnel will be closed to all users for ten months during its refurbishment, council officials have said."

Now you didn't have to look too far down the page to find that

"Greenwich Council continued to insist today that no official decision has been taken on how long the tunnel will close."

But no matter. Andrew had told us that the tunnels were to close for 10 months and that was the end of that.

Except a certain Boris Johnson has actually spoken to Chris Roberts, and heard differently.

Writing in response to a series of questions about the 18 month closure (no mention of "up to" by this point) Boris replied that:

"Greenwich expect to close only one lift per tunnel at a time. Most work will take place while the tunnels remain open although there may be a need for limited tunnel closures at times when it is not safe to carry out work, even behind hoardings."

and that Greenwich Council are

"seeking to limit the number of times when the foot tunnels will be completely closed and that these closures will be short in duration.”

So that's 'limited' and 'short' closures rather than a 10-18 month cordon.

Has this story been oversold just a little do you think?

-Update- Thanks to Darryl, I see that the Mercury got here first.


prj45 said...

So Mr Gilligan is simply using the idea of a lengthy closure as a stick to beat the council with?

AdamB said...

To be fair, Greenwich Council are usually pretty quick to hand out their own sticks, but this one does seem to have been over-sticked somewhat yes.

saifu03 said...

But someone from the council said it.
I think they planned to close the tunnel for maybe, 5 years. Then Andrew Gilligan explained that this was ridiculous and single handedly made the work occur for short terms resulting in him (with the help of the litotes-using Boris) making London BETTER!

That is what happened in AGworld anyway.

AdamB said...

You're right saifu03. You just have to read in between the lines...

Keith said...

The lifts are broken down half the time as it is anyway so I'm prepared to put up with a few months of bother if it means that the Council sort it out once and for all. Why are they taking so long about it though?

Andrew Brown said...

I wonder if the (nearly) local Lib Dems will want to take credit?

Anonymous said...

It's not like you to fall for a Boris Johnson PR statement - particularly when it is so vaguely worded: saying that Greenwich council are merely "seeking" to limit the closures and that these closures will be "short." What's their definition of "short" I wonder?

I've also followed your link to the Gilligan piece. It contains the following quote from Sean Collins of Thames Clippers: “We have been asked to tender for a replacement ferry service. We have been told unofficially by Geoff Horseman [Greenwich Council official] that the period of closure will be around ten months or possibly a year. That would be the closure of the whole tunnel, not just the lifts.”

This quote is much more specific than anything you've got (named official, specific duration) and would seem to stand up Gilligan's story. Is that why you forgot to mention it in your piece?

AdamB said...

Okay, leaving the faint smell of sock to one side for now, I'll humour you Anonymous

Gilligan's story was that:

"GREENWICH foot tunnel will be closed to all users for ten months during its refurbishment, council officials have said."

The only evidence for this claim appears to be that a man from Thames Clippers had (apparently) told Gilligan, that he himself had been told (unofficially) that:

"the period of closure will be around ten months or possibly a year"

Accepting for argument's sake that they were actually told this by the council, the phrase 'period of closure' does not necessarily mean total closure to all users for that entire period. Especially when the council have continued to say that no decision on the length of closures had been taken.

It could mean that this was the total expected period of refurbishment, during which time replacement ferry services would be needed, but not necessarily that the tunnels would be closed to all users for this entire length of time.

Now the council have put out a statement (linked to at the Mercury above) that:

"Most of the work will take place while the tunnels remain open. On occasions we may need to close each of the tunnels for safety reasons.”

This does not amount to the tunnel being 'closed to all users for ten months' however far you stretch it. Again, where was the evidence for Gilligan's claim?

Anonymous said...

Even now you have been rumbled, you continue to quote selectively. The full quote is: "The period of closure will be around ten months or possibly a year. That would be the closure of the whole tunnel, not just the lifts.”

Of course that amounts to the tunnel being closed to all users for ten months. What else can it mean?

AdamB said...

I believe you've added a capital T there.

It really is you isn't it? Why not just say?

Anonymous said...

No mate - I'm not Gilligan and I don't know him - but I do know you. Now how about answering my point about your habit of dishonest, selective quotation?

AdamB said...

If we know each other who are you?

Anonymous said...

Struck a nerve have I?

Tom said...

haha, the sock returns! Specialising in only the finest of late-night puppet pedantry and ebuse. All hail the sock. Gilligan - London's worst journalist - has near-collapsed 2 large media organisations so I see no reason to read a word he writes such is his interesting relationship with the truth.

According to Gilligan, today's urine-stained tunnel with no working lifts is perfect and needs no improvement.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Gilligan is a massive arse, what is of more importance is will the refurbed tunnel still smell a bit of wee?