The route for the UK’s £1.6bn A303 upgrade, a key part of the ‘South West expressway’, has been published by the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and includes the controversial 2.8km long Stonehenge Tunnel, effectively giving the green light to its construction.
The tunnel near Stonehenge will remove the traffic blight on local communities and enhance the famous landmark. It will reconnect the 2 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.
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Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said:
“We have listened to feedback from consultation and believe this preferred route will help improve traffic flow, reduce rat-running on the surrounding roads, bringing improvements to local communities and benefits to the south-west economy.”
A public consultation was held earlier this year which attracted considerable feedback from thousands of individuals and organisations. Following this and further engagement with local communities, heritage groups, archaeologists, historians and engineers, Highways England has modified the plans, including moving the position of one of the entrances to the tunnel to avoid conflicting with the solstice alignment. The route ensures the Stonehenge World Heritage site will be protected and enhanced for people from across the world to enjoy.
The government is committed to upgrading all remaining sections of the A303 between the M3 and M5 to dual carriageway standard, starting with 3 schemes: one at Stonehenge, one between Sparkford and Ilchester and the third on the A358 between Taunton and Southfields.
The preferred route includes:
- 8 miles of free-flowing, high-quality dual carriageway
- a tunnel at least 2.8km long underneath the World Heritage site, closely following the existing A303 route, but a further 50m away from the monument, avoiding important archaeological sites and avoiding intrusion on the view of the setting sun from Stonehenge during the winter solstice
- a new bypass to the north of the village of Winterbourne Stoke junctions with the A345 and A360 either side of the World Heritage site.