| 5 August 1998
A tunnel for Stonehenge
The setting and presentation of Stonehenge will probably improve with a series of improvements to the A303 trunk road as part of the English Government's Roads Review. Every day 21,000 cars currently pass within 300 yards of the stones and traffic flows are expected to double by the year 2017.
The decision to proceed with the scheme follows a joint DETR/DCMS/English Heritage study and a negotiated agreement between the two Departments. At least a third of the costs (GBP50 million) will be funded from heritage sources.
The A303 alongside the stones will be upgraded to a dual carriageway and hidden from the monument in a 2 km cut-and-cover tunnel. Cut and cover will unfortunately destroy a strip of National Trust land, but offers the opportunity for a full archaeological survey and excavations, furthering our knowledge of the landscape around Stonehenge. This will open up the possibility of closure of part of the A344 which intrudes severely on the World Heritage Site. It will also allow for the replacement and relocation of the current visitor facilities, condemned by the Public Accounts Committee in 1993 as a "national disgrace".
Culture Secretary Chris Smith said: "The three quarters of a million people who visit Stonehenge each year are confronted by an unedifying scene: shabby visitor facilities, an ugly underpass and the roar of traffic on the roads which blight the historic landscape and threaten the stones themselves. The new road scheme at last unlocks the impasse that has met all previous attempts to improve this sorry state of affairs".
Subject to the planning process and after a full archaeological survey, construction work could begin in 5-7 years.
Sources: English Heritage, DCMS press releases
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