Stonehenge road tunnel

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The A303 road passing by Stonehenge

The Stonehenge road tunnel is a planned tunnel in Wiltshire, England drawn up by the Highways Agency to upgrade the A303 road. It would move the A303 into a tunnel under the Stonehenge World Heritage Site completing the removal of traffic begun with the closure of the A344 road.[1] The wider project was designed to improve the landscape around the monument and to improve safety on the primary A303,[2] and was part of proposals to change the site in other ways including moving the visitors centre.


The A303 is one of the main routes from London to the South West of England. Sections have been upgraded to dual carriageway status, though one third of the road remains single carriageway. Traffic flows on the A303 between Amesbury and Winterbourne Stoke (the section including Stonehenge) are above the capacity of the road[3] and the Highways Agency expressed concern about safety on this road and the A344.[2] The two roads currently pass through Stonehenge and land owned by the National Trust[4] with the A303 passing directly south and the A344 directly to the north with a pedestrian tunnel passing from the Stonehenge visitor centre to the site underneath this road. As part of the development of the proposals, over 50 routes were considered by the Highways Agency.[5]

Since 1991 51 proposals have been considered for improving the A303 in the area and to remove it from the Stonehenge site.[6]


1995 proposal[edit]

In 1995 it was proposed to build a tunnel for the A303 underneath the World Heritage Site.[7] A conference agreed on a 2.5-mile (4 km) bored tunnel, however the government instead proposed a cut and cover tunnel, with plans being published in 1999.[7] These plans were criticised by the National Trust, Transport 2000 and others who expressed concern that it would cause damage to archaeological remains along the route, destroy ancient sites and not achieve an improvement in the landscape.[8][9]

In 2002, new plans for a bored tunnel of 1.3 miles (2.1 km) were announced by the Secretary of State for Transport as part of a 7.7 mile (12.5 km) plan to upgrade the A303 to dual carriageway status, with the tunnel estimated to cost £183m.[10] This proposal brought further protests from the National Trust, English Heritage, UNESCO, CPRE, the Council for British Archaeology[11] and local groups as the tunnel approach cutting would cut in two a prehistoric track way between Stonehenge and a nearby river. These groups are calling for a tunnel at least 2.9 km long, which would, while being sited within the world heritage site, clear most of the known major artefacts, claiming that if the government goes ahead with the 2.1 km tunnel there may never be another chance to remove the road from the site completely.[12]

In 2004 a public enquiry required under the Highways Act 1980 was conducted by a planning inspector, Michael Ellison. His enquiry agreed that the government proposals were adequate.[4] The report stated:

but concluded:

On 20 July 2005 the tunnel scheme was withdrawn by the Government, partly due to rising costs of construction, which had doubled to £470 million.[13] The Highways Agency continued to list the project as planned, but gave 2008 as the earliest date for the start of construction.[2]

2005 proposal[edit]

On 31 October 2005 a Government steering group was set up to look at possible solutions,[14] with the aim of choosing an "option in keeping with the special requirements of the location that is affordable, realistic and deliverable." The review presented five options — the published tunnel scheme, a cut and cover tunnel, a 'partial solution' (involving a roundabout but maintaining the current road), and two overland bypass routes.[15][16] Some of these plans have been criticised as being damaging to both archaeology and biodiversity, including the stone curlew, barn owls, bats, and the chalk grassland habitat.[17] Five options were considered including diverting the A303 further away and only closing the A344. The group expected to produce a report in 2006, taking into account the results of public consultation which started on 23 January 2006 and ran until 24 April 2006.[2]

On 6 December 2007 Roads Minister Tom Harris announced that the whole scheme had been cancelled due to increased costs of £540 million. English Heritage expressed disappointment whilst Save Stonehenge were pleased with the outcome. The Highways Agency will continue to work on small scale improvements to the A303.[18]

A344 closure[edit]

A revised proposal, of closing the A344 road between Stonehenge Bottom and Byway 12, and closing part of the B3086 was put forward in 2010. This also included a proposed new roundabout to replace the current Airman's Corner junction and improvements to the Longbarrow Roundabout on the A303.[19][20]

A planning inquiry to consider the proposal was started in June 2011.[21] In July 2012 work began on the £27m project which involved the closure and grassing over of part of the A344 and the closing of the underpass beneath the road at the monument entrance.[22]

In December 2013 the new visitors' centre at Airman's Corner on the A360 was opened. Shuttle buses take visitors to the monument along the old A344 road, a distance of approximately 2.4 km.

2013 proposal[edit]

According to documentation released in response to a Freedom of Information request, in January 2012 local councils and the South West Local Enterprise Partnership met to discuss their proposals for "a consortium of Local Authorities to develop and take forward a new scheme for improvements to the A303/ A358/A30" and to "develop an effective lobbying framework so that we can take a planned approach to raising our profile both nationally, regionally and locally".[23] In September 2012 a survey conducted by Somerset County Council found that more than 90% of commuters and businesses in the South West back an upgrade of the A303.[24] In April 2013 it was reported that the chancellor was giving consideration to "...adding lanes to the A303 – known all too well to holidaymakers – which runs from Basingstoke through Wiltshire (past Stonehenge) and Somerset to the South West of England..."[25]

The proposal was finally allowed by the British Government on 12 January 2017. The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, said that "it will transform the A303, cutting congestion and improving journey times". Critics argued that "it would cause irreparable damage to the landscape."[26]


  1. ^ "Reasons for Review". Highways Agency. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  2. ^ a b c d "A303 Stonehenge". Highways Agency. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  3. ^ "A303 Stonehenge (incorporating the Winterbourne Stoke Bypass) Preferred Route Announcement June 1999 — Why a road improvement is proposed". Highways Agency. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  4. ^ a b "Report to the First Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for Transport". 2005-01-31. p. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  5. ^ "A303 Stonehenge (incorporating the Winterbourne Stoke Bypass) Preferred Route Announcement June 1999 — Choice of route". Highways Agency. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  6. ^ Professor Alec Boksenberg CBE FRS (2006-04-19). "A303 Stonehenge Improvement Scheme Review: public consultation — Response by the United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO" (PDF). UNESCO Committee for United Kingdom. p. 2. Retrieved 2007-05-17. 
  7. ^ a b "Stonehenge tunnel inquiry opens". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2004-02-17. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  8. ^ "Stonehenge road plans 'may damage site'". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2001-10-18. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  9. ^ "Trust attacks Stonehenge tunnel". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2002-10-04. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  10. ^ "Stonehenge tunnel approved". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2002-12-10. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  11. ^ "Proof of Evidence of George Lambrick MA FSA MIFA" (DOC). Council for British Archaeology. 2004-01-??. Retrieved 2007-04-08.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ "Maximising benefits – A more sustainable tunnel solution at Stonehenge" (Press release). The National Trust. 3 October 200. Retrieved 2007-05-17.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ "Stonehenge tunnel plan cash blow". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2005-07-20. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  14. ^ "Way Forward Announced For A303 Stonehenge Review" (Press release). Government News Network. 2005-10-31. Retrieved 2007-04-08. Stephen Ladyman, Minister of State for Transport, said: "I hope this review will enable me to decide on an option in keeping with the special requirements of the location that is affordable, realistic and deliverable." 
  15. ^ "Heritage site road plans revealed". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2006-02-08. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  16. ^ "A303 Stonehenge Improvement Scheme Review — Public Consultation" (PDF). Highways Agency. January 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  17. ^ "Stonehenge road 'a risk to birds'". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2006-01-23. Retrieved 2007-04-08. 
  18. ^ "Stonehenge tunnel plans scrapped". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-12-06. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  19. ^ "Public inquiry into Stonehenge road closure". Salisbury Journal. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  20. ^ "Stonehenge Road Closure". BAJR archaeology portal. February 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  21. ^ "Inquiry into Stonehenge A344 closure plans". BBC. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  22. ^ "Stonehenge's £27m makeover will end its days as a traffic island". The Guardian. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2012. 
  23. ^ "Notes of a meeting to discuss opportunities to take forward a new proposal for improvements to the A303, A358 and A30" (PDF). 
  24. ^ "A303 dualling plan through South West 'supported by businesses'". 
  25. ^ "Chancellor plans second toll motorway in major road spend". The Independent. 2013-04-01. 
  26. ^ "Stonehenge tunnel plan finalised by government". BBC News. 12 January 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°10′36″N 1°49′35″W / 51.1767°N 1.8265°W / 51.1767; -1.8265