Tunnel beneath Stonehenge could be reconsidered as part of plans to ease traffic congestion
Plans to build a road tunnel under Stonehenge could be revived as the Government looks to ease bottlenecks on some of Britain’s most congested stretches of road.
A study to be completed this summer will consider whether a dual carriageway or underground tunnel could solve the traffic problem caused by drivers slowing down to admire one of Britain’s most famous world heritage sites.
Plans for a 1.3 mile road tunnel beneath the site and bypass have been proposed before but were dropped in 2007 due to the estimated £470 million cost.
Yesterday, the Government outlined detailed plans for a “feasibility study” which will examine all possibilities for easing congestion along the route.
It pledged to deliver its final proposals in this year’s Autumn Statement along with the findings of five similar road-widening proposals on the A27 corridor, the A47 between Peterborough and Great Yarmouth, Trans-Pennine routes and two areas of the A1 around Newcastle.
Countryside campaigners attacked the plans which they claimed would scar beauty spots by laying extra tarmac along stretches of land which have remained untouched since Roman times.
Plans to widen the A27 include parts of the South Downs, Britain’s newest national park, while parts of the Norfolk Broads national park and the Northumberland coast could be affected under plans for the A47 and A1, they said.
The A303/A30/A358 corridor, which forms the main route from London to the south west, was highlighted by ministers last summer as one of six areas where solutions were urgently needed for the country’s most “notorious and long standing” congestion hot spots.
The A303 in particular is frequently gridlocked during summer weekends at a number of points where the dual carriageway narrows to a single lane, bringing holiday traffic to a standstill.
The feasibility study will “look to initially build on work done to date on potential proposals” rather than drawing up new solutions, beginning several plans for new stretches of dual carriageway including a 12km passage from Amesbury to Berwick Down (Stonehenge).
But the study will also “draw upon” work from a range of other projects including historic plans to tunnel beneath the prehistoric monument, with sources insisting all options are on the table.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England said several of the spots under examination, including Stonehenge, are only congested at certain times of year and do not merit major development.
Ralph Smyth, senior transport campaigner for the CPRE, said: “The traffic [at Stonehenge] hasn’t increased in the last 10 years and it does not justify the huge cost of a tunnel.”
A long tunnel would at least be preferable to a dual carriageway at the surface, which could cause the historic site to lose its world heritage status, he added.
Last month John Glen, Conservative MP for Salisbury, said a tunnel was the “only realistic” solution to protect Stonehenge while solving traffic problems which he said had turned the stretch into the “devil’s highway”.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said the six studies would “develop solutions to some of the most notorious and long-standing hot spots on the national road network.”
An English Heritage spokesman said: “We want to make certain the necessary improvements to the A303 are delivered in a way that will ensure the protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.”
By Nick Collins, Transport Correspondent: Full article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/10783496/Stonehenge-tunnel-plans-could-be-revived.html
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