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Government backs Stonehenge tunnel

12 September 2017

The route for the £1.6bn A303 upgrade near Stonehenge has been given government backing.

The Department for Transport announced today that the A303 upgrade between Amesbury and Berwick Down includes the 1.8 mile-long tunnel, eight miles of new dual carriageway and a bypass north of Winterbourne Stoke.

The so-called South West Expressway will link the M3 in the South East and the M5 in the South West to speed journey times. 

A tunnel near Stonehenge is expected to remove or at least reduce traffic jams near the famous landmark. It will also reconnect the two halves of the 6,500-acre World Heritage Site, which is currently split by the road, and remove the sight and sound of traffic from the Stonehenge landscape. 

Following public consultation, Highways England has modified the plans, including moving the position of the western tunnel portal to avoid conflicting with the solstice alignment. The western part of the tunnel is now closer to the existing A303 alignment than it was before the consultation.

In a statement released by the Department for Transport, Highways England said the changes to the route ensures that “the Stonehenge World Heritage Site will be protected and enhanced for people from across the world to enjoy”.

Government policy is to upgrade all remaining sections of the A303 between the M3 and M5 to dual carriageway standard, starting with three schemes: one at Stonehenge, one between Sparkford and Ilchester and the third on the A358 between Taunton and Southfields.

Commenting on new plans, director of external affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), Marie-Claude Hemming, said: “This scheme will dramatically cut journey times for millions of road users, boosting connectivity and driving growth across the South West.

“We are delighted that the government has listened to both industry and the wider public, and has unveiled plans that will simultaneously improve the current road system and maintain the archaeological integrity of Stonehenge.

“This investment will drive growth and support tourism in an area where congestion has hitherto held back the potential of the regional economy. Now that the government has announced this major investment, it is vital that the scheme moves forward to delivery without delay.”

Image: Ricky Deacon/Dreamstime

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