‘Scrapped’ – End of the Road for the Stonehenge Tunnel?

28 02 2020

The proposed plans to ‘upgrade’ the A303, which currently runs within 165 meters of the Neolithic monument, is set to be ‘scrapped’. In the wake of an UNESCO survey which uncovered a plethora of issues which were set to escalate the costs of the build to over £2 billion. The proposal sought to both ease traffic around the monument and improve the environment surrounding the 5,000-year-old the world heritage site by creating a 2-mile-long dual carriageway, within a tunnel, beneath the monument. The projects scrapping sees the end of a 25-year battle and will leave thousands of campaigners feeling triumphant.

Stonehenge Tunnel

When it comes to the initiation and completion of this project there doesn’t seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel.

Escalating Cost

In 2018 the budget for the project was a whopping £1.6 billion, a figure that unsettled many MPs at the time. However, due to the rich Neolithic history of the area surrounding Stonehenge, UNESCO conducted an archaeological survey around the area of the proposed tunnel. The survey found significant material, which adds more layers of complexity to the project. With the project already spiralling into a complexity nightmare – with amongst other things, four green bridges, a viaduct, 100 ha of grassland – the additional costs required by the surveys findings pushed costs to over £2 billion, a figure the government is not likely to pay. Ultimately, the decision lies with Grant Schnapps, the secretary of state for transport, who still has time to announce his decision. However, it seems almost certain that the plan will be scrapped by the time the budget is announced on March 11.

Opposition

One group who will be over the moon with the news is the Stonehenge alliance:

A group of non-governmental organisations and individuals that seeks enhancements to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site

The group have represented a staunch opposition to the proposed tunnel, regularly siting its archaeological shortfalls, as it says on their website:

All archaeology in the construction zones would be destroyed and the A303 would become the largest ever human intervention in an area fashioned and revered by over a hundred generations of our ancestors.

They will certainly feel vindicated in the light of UNESCO’s survey, proving that archaeological considerations were in fact inadequate in the original plan. Todays announcement comes only a week after Stonehenge alliance gathered over 50,000 signatures for a petition against the project.

However, this might not be an end to the saga. The fact remains that the A303 ‘bottleneck’ around Stonehenge is getting worse and the government are believed to be looking at alternatives to the tunnel. Long serving Salisbury City MP John Glen, a supporter of the proposal, said: ‘Large, strategic infrastructure projects like this are always subject to ongoing controversy and rumour until the final decision is made by government…. I appreciate there is considerable cost accompanying the project but I have always been clear that the alternatives to what have been proposed do not stack up.’

For now this exact plan seems dead in the water, but don’t be surprised if another iteration springs up to replace it.

Relevant links:

Two mile tunnel underneath Stonehenge is set to be scrapped over funding problems after survey uncovered issues that could send costs soaring to £2billion – DAILY MAIL

Stonehenge Tunnel scheme ‘scrapped’  – Salisbury Journal

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