A303 near Winterbourne Stoke, Wiltshire
|Northeast end:||North Waltham|
| M3 motorway
|Counties:||Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon|
The A303 is a 92-mile long trunk road in England. It is the main road between Basingstoke in Hampshire and Honiton in Devon. The M3, the A303 and the A30 together make up one of the main routes from London to South West England, running from London to Land's End in Cornwall. It is a primary A road throughout its length. Although it follows a similar path to the West of England Main Line, it does not run through or closely bypass Salisbury.
The A303 is subject to several upgrade proposals, some of which have been controversial. Despite being a primary route to southwestern England, the A303 is frequently congested not withstanding the fact that the recommended route from London to Exeter is the M4 and the M5.Congestion is frequently reported on the route's single carriageway sections.
The A303 was created on 1 April 1933 by a renumbering of several different routes to provide a long bypass for through traffic for a section of the A30. Parts of the route, such as the section past Stonehenge, have been a right of way for people, wagons, and later motor vehicles for centuries. Running from the M3 motorway towards the south west of England these were:
|A33 to Bullington Cross||Unclassified roads, later B3379 to Micheldever and B3049 thereon|
|Bullington Cross to Andover||B3049|
|Andover to Stonehenge||A344 road|
|Stonehenge Wincanton to Ilchester||B3090, later A3036|
|Ilchester bypass at Podimore||B3150, later A372 until bypass built|
|Ilchester to South Petherton||A3036|
|South Petherton to Ilminster||A358|
|Ilminster to Marsh||B3169, later A3079|
|Marsh to A30||B3170 later A3079|
Since the designation of this route, various bypasses have been built.
The A303 starts at the M3 motorway south of Basingstoke at Junction 8, as a dual carriageway. It heads south west, crossing the A34 road near Bullington before passing south of Andover. It bypasses Amesbury. The route then becomes single carriageway before passing Stonehenge. After Winterbourne Stoke the route once again becomes dual carriageway, meeting the A36 at Deptford. There is then another section of single carriageway road, before a further section of dual two lane road near Berwick St Leonard. It enters a valley through the village of Chicklade. From here it follows the terrain up to Mere, where it runs north of the town as another dual carriageway bypass. Continuing west, it passes south of Wincanton and then north of Sparkford to a roundabout where the road reverts once more to single carriageway. At Yeovilton the road becomes dual two lane again, and connects with the A37 which joins it until it reaches the end of the bypass. This final section of dual carriageway ends at South Petherton. It runs north of Ilminster where it meets the A358 road. After this, the route is more south westerly through the Blackdown Hills, where it is a narrow road following the contours of the land. The end of the A303 is reached where it joins the A30. Between Ilchester and Shores Bridge (over the River Parrett, east of South Petherton) the road follows the course of the Roman Fosse Way.
Map of route
Much of the road is dual carriageway, with intervening sections of single carriageway road. The Highways Agency has had plans for several years to upgrade the rest of the route to dual carriageway; however none of these upgrades are currently under construction.
A303 Stonehenge improvement
The most controversial of the proposed alterations was the Stonehenge road tunnel, where the road passes alongside the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. On 5 June 2003, 7.7 miles (12.5 km) of improvements, including the proposed 1.3 mile (2.1 km) bored Stonehenge road tunnel under land adjacent to Stonehenge, were announced by the Secretary of State for Transport as part of a wider announcement of road improvements. A public enquiry into whether the plans were adequate was announced; it concluded that they were, despite protests from charities and landowners that the tunnel should be longer. On 31 October 2005 it was announced that there was to be a review of the options for Stonehenge, starting in January 2006, as costs had doubled. The government cancelled the whole scheme in December 2007.
A303/A358 South Petherton to M5 Taunton
In November 2004 plans to improve the route through the Blackdown Hills (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) were abandoned in favour of upgrading the A358 from Ilminster to the M5 motorway at Taunton to reduce traffic west of Ilminster. Also incorporating plans to widen the Ilminster bypass from South Petherton to a dual 2 lane road, these were the subject of a public consultation in March 2007 but were shelved in 2009 when it was concluded that the dualling could not be funded from the Regional Funding Allocation for the South West.
- A30/A303 Marsh Honiton and A35 Honiton Eastern Bypass
- A303 Ilminster Bypass Improvement
- A303 Ilminster to Marsh Improvement
- A303 Sparkford to Ilchester Improvement
- A303 Wylye-Stockton Wood Improvement
- A303 Chicklade Bottom-Mere Improvement
The schemes were remitted to the London to South West and South Wales Multi-Modal Study (SWARMMS), and the conclusion of the report was that all of the schemes east of Ilminster should go ahead and that to avoid building a dual carriageway through the Blackdown Hills the A358 should be upgraded to the M5 motorway at Taunton. As of 2009 none are considered to be regional priorities so no other improvements are likely to be funded before 2019.
The road in popular culture
Kula Shaker performed their first impromptu gig at the Glastonbury Festival, which can be reached via the A303. They used this as the title of their song 303 on the album K. It was also mentioned in the Levellers' song Battle of the Beanfield, about the attack by police on travellers celebrating the Solstice at Stonehenge (1 June 1985): "Down the '303 at the end of the road, Flashing lights, exclusion zones".
In an episode of the popular BBC comedy panel show Mock the Week, comedian John Oliver responded to the prompt "Things A Frenchman would never say" with "My favourite road? Now that's got to be the A303. In many ways it's quicker than the M4, and you get to go past Stonehenge. If you're going along to the West Country it's the A303 for me every time. What a road, what a road!". Oliver mentions the A303 with some frequency on The Bugle, a satirical podcast he co-hosts with Andy Zaltzman, where Zaltzman has also referred to the A303 calling it "Britain's greatest trunk road."
Prior to the broadcast of Series 15 of Top Gear, the cast of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May were spotted and recorded driving along the A303 in what appeared to be house cars. The video was recorded and put on YouTube. The show was broadcast in the summer of 2010 as the first episode of season 15. The road was also used to test the Bentley Continental GT by Jeremy Clarkson in 2003, and also to test the Jaguar XJ in 2011.
The BBC broadcast a documentary about the A303 on 19 May 2011 on BBC Four, called "A303 Highway to the Sun". The writer Tom Fort drove the length of the A303 in a Morris Traveller, making various stops.
Points of interest
(Links to map resources)
|OS Grid Ref||Notes|
|North Waltham, Hampshire||SU551446||Start, North Waltham, Hampshire|
|Newcott||ST230090||End - Newcott, Devon|
- The National Archives file MT39/246 : "CLASSIFICATION : Renumbering of classified routes"
- "Stonehenge tunnel plan cash blow". BBC News. 2005-07-20. Retrieved 2007-04-08.
- "Stonehenge tunnel plans scrapped". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2007-12-06. Archived from the original on 8 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-06.
- "Beauty spot saved from dual road". BBC News. 2004-11-29. Retrieved 2007-04-08.
- "A303/A358 South Petherton to M5 Taunton". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 25 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-22.
- "South West Region - Targeted programme of improvements". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 2007-08-09. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
- "Road scheme details in full". BBC News. 1998-07-31. Retrieved 2007-11-04.
- "Microsoft Word - PLAN Lon-Exe corr v2.doc" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-03-25.
- "The Idler " Visions of Albion". idler.co.uk. Archived from the original on 24 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
- "Top Gear caught in action. Embarrassing parents.".
- "Driving the A303: Highway To The Sun.".
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: A303 road (England)|
- BBC, 2011 A303: Highway to the Sun BBC Four Thu 19 May 2011 21:00
- Clark, A., 2004, "Darling to signal roadbuilding rethink" in The Guardian, 27 November 2004
- Highways Agency - A303 Stonehenge Improvement
- Department for Transport, 2005, "Way forward announced for A303 Stonehenge review"
- "Arriving soon at Stonehenge: 480 trucks a day from Tesco's 'megashed'", The Guardian, Saturday 23 February 2008
- SABRE - A303