The UK Government has given its approval for the construction of the Stonehenge Bypass. The new bypass will feature a 2.6km tunnel section and have a twin tube tunnel with two lanes in either direction, routing the A303 away from the famous monolith.
The project has been the subject of much controversy. Archaeologists have expressed concern that the building of the tunnel and the cutting for the new route will likely damage important historic relics. Various groups have tried to block the project on both historic and environmental grounds. Whether further legal challenges will be used to attempt to block the project remains to be seen.
Building the new route will improve both safety and capacity on this stretch of the A303, which suffers heavy delays at peak periods. At present the road has a single lane in either direction only and is routed through a village. The A303 carries a high percentage of heavy trucks as well as holiday traffic during vacation times and the existing stretch of the road being replaced is not able to cope in terms of capacity, while it also has serious safety concerns.
Highways England has pushed for the project to go ahead for some time. The project to build the new bypass has been on and off again numerous occasions and the proposal for its construction dates back several decades. Meanwhile, costs have soared. It is now expected to cost around £1.7 billion to construct, while when it came close to being approved in the mid-2000s, the pricetag was around £300 million. As the ground conditions are poor and the water table is high, building the tunnel will be complex and require vast quantities of concrete to provide support, as well as extensive drainage and settlement facilities to address the water issue, without causing environmental problems.