Road Tunnel at Stonehenge

 In Stonehenge

The road tunnel at Stonehenge is under review but looks as if it will be approved – finally. It’s all part of the upgrade to the A303 and will cost £1.6 billion in total. The tunnel itself will be 1.9 miles long, or 3 kilometres to those with a European streak. The tunnel in my photograph is surrounded by white concrete but it reminds us that the A303 runs across a mass of white chalk.

Peace at Last

The tunnel is intended ‘to restore the tranquil environment and setting of the monument’. That, of course, is a rather loaded promise. Is anyone alive who can recall when the monument was last ‘tranquil’? I very much doubt it.

The Opposition

Groups such as The Stonehenge Alliance and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) are opposed. Their statements range from ‘severely flawed’ to ‘threatens fragile archaeology.’ The problem is that something needs to be done and few, if any, easy solutions are apparent.

Worst Case Scenario

Routes both south and north of Stonehenge have been considered. For me, any route south would need to bridge the River Avon. This would be close to where the prehistoric processional avenue leaves the river for Stonehenge. Any road or bridge development in that area would destroy the prehistoric landscape for ever. As for the north, that would split Stonehenge away from Salisbury Plain and the route upon which they dragged in the sarsons. The tunnel seems the least damaging option.

Noise!

In my forthcoming book My Pagan Ancestor Zuri, both she and I visit Stonehenge. For me the experience is entirely spoiled by a long line of noisy traffic on the A303. It’s impossible to feel in tune with prehistory when modernism intrudes in such a way. English Heritage has tried hard to improve matters. The visitor centre, more especially its car park, is now out of sight. The proposed road tunnel would reinstate the line of the prehistoric avenue down to the River Avon, which is currently split by the A303. It would also remove the sight and sound of vehicles. The Neolithic feel of Stonehenge would be recovered. So, let’s get on with it!

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  • Avatar
    Julie Dunk
    Reply

    As part of my finals for my archaeology degree I had to write about the various options for improving the traffic situation at Stonehenge – that was 33 years ago and still nothing has happened! That’s a very long consultation period!

    • Ken West
      Ken West
      Reply

      Julie, its the routine now for everybody to have the right of comment, but somebody, somewhere, has to make a decision. Perhaps they did read your report before this solution was agreed?

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A mortice & tenon joint about why was Stonehenge built