Rotherhithe Tunnel construction breakthrough.(TfL Image)
- Opened on 12 June 1908, the tunnel carries more than 30,000 vehicles a day, as well as cyclists and pedestrians, compared to 2,600 vehicles in 1908
- The tunnel was designed to carry horse-drawn carriages and has very strict height and width restrictions to ensure safety
Designed and built by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, the tunnel was constructed between 1904 and 1908 and was the largest boring project in the world at the time. The overall look and feel of the tunnel has largely remained the same, with a number of features that are Grade II heritage listed, including the entrance arches, tunnel portals and river side ventilation buildings.
Bus on route 82, 1936 © London Transport Museum collection and Rotherhithe Tunnel (TfL Images)
The tunnel links Limehouse on the north of the river to Rotherhithe on the south. Built originally for horse-drawn carriages and pedestrians, the tunnel now carries far more traffic than it was designed for, which requires careful day to day management by TfL to ensure safety. This is why, in 2012, TfL banned vehicles more than two metres wide from the tunnel and updated the signage prohibiting hazardous goods.
Glynn Barton, TfL’s Director of Network Management, said:
“The Rotherhithe Tunnel is a vital part of London’s transport network and is used by more than 12 million vehicles a year, despite the fact it was originally built for horses and carts. The restriction on vans and wider vehicles in the tunnel is important for its modern day use, as it reduces the risk of collisions.”
As part of its regular monitoring of its network, TfL has identified that up to 6,500 vehicles wider than the restrictions could be illegally entering the tunnel every day, despite the clear signage on all approaches highlighting the restrictions. TfL is increasing activity to tackle vehicles that ignore the restrictions, with drivers risking a fine of £50 or prosecution.
Drivers prohibited from using the Rotherhithe Tunnel should use Tower Bridge or the Blackwall Tunnel – both of which are outside of the Congestion Charge.