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17 April 2004
Contingency plans for Solstice at Stonehenge

Traffic chaos on the night of the Summer Solstice around the Stonehenge area should be avoided, thanks to a raft of contingency plans recently announced. Last year's highly successful celebration was marred for many visitors by long tailbacks on the A303 near Stonehenge, which took several hours to clear. Other road users and nearby residents also faced severe delays after they were caught in the Solstice snarl-up.
     Stonehenge is English Heritage's most visited site. Last Bank holiday weekend was the site's busiest Easter for five years: more than 18,000 people flocked to the stones, a 23% increase in visitor numbers compared to Easter 2003. Peter Carson, English Heritage's head of Stonehenge, said: "Its appeal can be attributed to people's ever increasing interest in heritage and history." More than 750,000 people visit Stonehenge a year, half from overseas.
     This year, organiser English Heritage hopes to cut the queues on Summer Solstice by opening the car park four hours earlier, at 8pm, and allowing more than 30,000 Solstice-goers access to the monument from 10pm until 9am on June 21. More revellers will be encouraged to use public transport, with buses laying on special services from Salisbury train and coach stations to Stonehenge.
     Peter Carson told a meeting of Amesbury Council that for the first time people will walk to the monument along a 10m-wide corridor through farmers' fields, which will give better views of the stones then the normal route down the A344. The arrangements will be posted on websites about the Solstice and full emergency planning has already been carried out. Superintendent Matt Pullen is in charge of the police operation at the Solstice. "Obviously, it is a huge demand on resources," he said. "We hope to move away from the Solstice being seen as a party, and make it a family-friendly event for everyone."

Sources: Salisbury Journal & Avon Advertiser (14 April 2004), BBC News (15 April 2004)

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