Highways England welcomes green light for £1.7 billion Stonehenge A303 upgrade

By Ben Carey on 13 November, 2020

Highways England’s plans to upgrade the A303 at the notorious Stonehenge bottleneck have been given the go-ahead.

The upgraded road, which includes a two-mile tunnel underneath the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, will largely follow the existing A303 route, but a further 50 metres away from the Stonehenge monument.

Care has been taken to avoid important archaeological sites to ensure there is no intrusion on the view of the setting sun from the stones during the winter solstice.

The scheme will tackle congestion on the single carriageway section of the A303 route, helping to improve journey times and reliability between the M3 and M5.

Following the formal go ahead from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, there is now a six-week period in which the decision may be challenged in the High Court.

In the meantime, Highways England has been progressing the procurement process for the main works contract and is participating in dialogue with three bidders before they submit their final tenders. The preferred bidder is expected to be announced in 2021.

Fieldwork is due to start in late spring next year, with the main five-year construction phase expected to start by 2023.

Cllr Bridget Wayman, Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Highways, said, “We’re delighted that, after many years of planning and lobbying by our dedicated officers and members, consent has been granted for the A303 Stonehenge project.

“It represents a significant investment in Wiltshire that will boost the South-West economy, unlocking jobs and investment throughout the entire region. We now can look forward to construction beginning, and to unlocking all the benefits the scheme will bring to Wiltshire and the South West.”

Highways England Chief Executive Jim O’Sullivan said, “The A303 Stonehenge tunnel project is part of the biggest investment in our road network for a generation and we welcome the Secretary of State’s decision. This transformational scheme will return the Stonehenge landscape towards its original setting and will improve journey times for everyone who travels to and from the South West.”

David Tucker, Federation of Small Businesses Transport Chair, added, “This is very welcome news. Upgrading the single carriageway sections of the A303 is key to supporting the South-West economy, particularly as the only alternative route via the M4 and M5 into the region is already heavily used. Investment in improving key links on the country’s A roads is a positive and vital way to support our local regional economies.”

The £1.7 billion A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down upgrade includes:

  • eight miles of free-flowing, high-quality dual carriageway
  • 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