UK’s Stonehenge Tunnel Project Gets Green Light

National Highways in the United Kingdom has given the formal green light by granting a Development Consent Order for the A303 Stonehenge scheme, which will help to unlock congestion and transform journeys for millions of people using the A303 between the south-east and south-west.

The government’s proposals were initially granted consent in 2020, and following a legal challenge and a High Court ruling against the decision-making process, the application has undergone a thorough redetermination process of more than 12 months before the approval announcement in July.

The transformational and sensitive upgrade will tackle congestion on the notorious, traffic-clogged single carriageway section of the arterial A303 route, and the announcement is a significant step toward unlocking economic growth and improving journey times and reliability between the M3 and M5.

The owner agency has been granted 11 Development Consent Orders since April 2022, and the announcement follows the go-ahead for another major infrastructure project in the South West – the A417 Missing Link dualling scheme in Gloucestershire.

Chief Executive Nick Harris said: “The A303 Stonehenge scheme is part of the biggest investment in our road network for a generation, and I’m really pleased the project has been given the green light by the Secretary of State for Transport – a decision which will enable us to progress this transformational scheme and deliver the planned benefits.

“The decision follows a lot of work on a comprehensive year-long process to reassess our Development Consent Order, looking in detail at possible alternatives, also including cumulative carbon and heritage issues.

“It means we’re now a step closer to solving the longstanding issues of congestion and delays on the existing A303, improving journeys for all our customers and bringing much-need relief to local communities.

“The investment, along with other improvements along the A303, will help to boost the South West economy, improve journey reliability, remove the sight and sound of traffic from this very busy road and return one of our most important World Heritage Sites to something like its original setting.”

Details of the Scheme

The A303 Stonehenge upgrade includes:

  • eight miles of free-flowing, high-quality dual carriageway between Amesbury and Berwick Down
  • a tunnel at least two miles long underneath the World Heritage Site, closely following the existing A303 route, but a further 50 metres away from the Stonehenge monument, avoiding important archaeological sites, and avoiding intrusion on the view of the setting sun from the stones during the winter solstice
  • a new bypass to the north of the village of Winterbourne Stoke
  • junctions with the A345 and A360 either side of the World Heritage Site

Next Steps

There is now a six-week period in which parties can lodge an intention to legally challenge the decision, and in the meantime, we’ll be renewing our plans to prepare for the scheme.

Last year the company awarded the Main Works contract to the MORE joint venture, comprising FCC Construcción, WeBuild and BeMo Tunnelling, to deliver the £1.25 billion (~$1.6 billion US) tunnel and main construction work.

Costain and Mott MacDonald will be operating as the company’s Delivery Assurance Partner, providing technical and construction management expertise by helping mobilize the main works contractor, oversee construction, assist the discharge of consent requirements and assure the design.

The construction phase is scheduled to take five years to complete and ahead of the main work, Wessex Archaeology will carry out archaeological mitigation work, while Octavius (formerly Osborne Ltd) will undertake preliminary work, including the reconfiguration of local authority roads.

Archaeological fieldwork and preliminary work will start first, with the main five-year construction phase to follow that program.

For a video on the project, click here.

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