14 May 2009

Thames Crossings 30: Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Downriver from Woolwich Ferry, only a few yards, is Woolwich Foot Tunnel. It's very similar to Greenwich Foot Tunnel, with similar drawing-room lifts and round entrance huts, but the addition of a few barriers to hinder attempts to cycle. (Shame! They allow it in the Tyne Tunnel, which has a dedicated tunnel for bikes.)

It's a bit longer than Greenwich at 504m, was opened later in 1921, and is a bit leakier.

From here there's no sensible or pleasant way downriver on the north bank. On the south bank, though, is National Cycle Route 1, which takes you all along the riverside, traffic-free, as far as Erith.

Immediately after the tunnel is Firepower, an artillery museum, which has a cafe. The building complex is the old Woolwich Arsenal, which gave its name to a football team which used to be in London. There's a bunch of life-sized metal male figures that look like Gormleys but aren't, presumably standing around waiting for Woolwich to gentrify. They're very rusty.

Just a few hundred yards on, London feels to have come to a sudden stop, and the scenery gets suddenly broad and estuarial. After Erith you go past a sailing club and alongside fields with horses and get your first view of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge shimmering hazily in the distance. A pebbly track cuts inland and then, leaving Route 1, it's a couple of miles of roads into Dartford town centre. You'll have to head north up a hill and through housing estates to find the cycle path access to Dartfor's bridge/tunnel crossing system. From Woolwich Foot Tunnel it's about 12 miles to Dartford Crossing.


  1. So "Woolwich Arsenal...gave its name to a football team which used to be in London" ? They left Woolwich in 1913, but they're still very much in London. Were you thinking of Wimbledon?

  2. I meant 'used to be a London team'. They certainly aren't now, in their Emirates Stadium, managed by a Frenchman, and with hardly a Brit in the squad!

  3. I know that it is currently closed but I have two questions for when the tunnel reopens: 1) can you cycle along the tunnel or is it banned meaning you have to wait for the ferry; and 2) is it safe to use the tunnel, whether walking or cycling? It looks like a good spot for muggers.

  4. The tunnel has now opened after a major refurb. Joke. It looks like the council has done Charles dickens proud n his bi centenary year. As it looks like a bomb has hit it. What a disgrace. The council should hang their heads. Go down and take a look.

    1. Still closed at the moment.
      haven't a clue when it will be open.

  5. The tunnel is open, and has been since about November. The lifts still haven't been replaced though so it's stairs only at both ends.

    You aren't allowed to cycle through the tunnel, but you are allowed to walk through pushing a bike. The ferry is the more attractive option if you wish to cross while it's running and have time to wait for it.