Drivers to be left high and dry amid plans for Rotherhithe Tunnel to close for a year for repairs – forcing 12 million journeys to be taken elsewhere

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

The Rotherhithe Tunnel could close for a year to carry out essential repairs, Transport for London has warned.

Drivers who use the crossing would have to find alternative routes for up to 12 months.

More than 12 million cars use the underwater passage between Rotherhithe and Limehouse every year.

The 114 year-old tunnel, which was originally built for horse and cart, is in desperate need of essential maintenance.

Repairing the tunnel is expected to cost £120 million if it closes for a year, a freedom of information request revealed.

TfL said maintenance work would be “substantially more expensive” if the underwater passage was only closed for repairs weekends and nights.

The Rotherhithe Tunnel

New ventilation systems, fire safety systems and lighting would be installed as part of the works.

The tunnel, which crosses the River Thames, would also get new signage, carriageways, pumps and drainage.

A TfL spokesperson told Southwark News: “A detailed programme and cost estimate for the works will be produced during the detailed design stage.

“However, due to TfL’s current financial position, we are unable at this time to progress the procurement for the detailed design and build stages of the project.”

In July a senior TfL executive told members of the London Assembly that the tunnel was “in urgent need of an upgrade”.

Managing director for surface transport Gareth Powell said: “[The tunnel is]  in urgent need of an upgrade.

“The Rotherhithe Tunnel was built many years ago for a different type of purpose.

“That is one of the reasons why there are restrictions around the type of vehicle that can enter and go through that tunnel at the moment. That’s in order that we can continue to operate the tunnel safely.”

Vehicles more than 2m high and 2m wide are banned from using the tunnel under the rules.

Goods vehicles weighing more than two tonnes are also prohibited.

The Rotherhithe Tunnel was opened on 12 June, 1908.

It carries more than 30,000 vehicles a day, as well as cyclists and pedestrians, compared to 2,600 vehicles in 1908.

TfL has been contacted for comment.

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