Highways England has dismissed reports that its planned £1.7bn Stonehenge Tunnel is to be scrapped as “pure speculation”.
According to the Salisbury Journal, survey work has uncovered issues that would push the tunnel’s cost to over £2bn. The Journal said this is “a bill the Prime Minister is not prepared to pay”.
It added that sources have suggested the government is already looking at alternatives, with some expecting a decision in time for the Budget on 11 March.
However, a Highways England spokesperson said: “This is pure speculation. The A303 Stonehenge scheme is going through the proper planning process and we are awaiting a final decision from the Secretary of State for Transport.”
In January, the Planning Inspectorate passed on its formal recommendations for the A303 tunnel, with a decision on planning permission from transport secretary Grant Shapps due within three months.
The 3.3km long, twin-bore tunnel is part of the plan to upgrade 13km of the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down road which runs through the Stonehenge World Heritage site.
The scheme has been mired in controversy with environmental and heritage groups objecting to the location of tunnel portals inside the World Heritage Site.
Last month, over 50,000 people signed a petition against the tunnel.
However, Highways England maintains that the scheme will cut congestion and improve journey times on the A303 route.
It will also include a northern bypass of Winterbourne Stoke with a viaduct over the River Till valley, a new junction between the A303 and A360 to the west of and outside the WHS, replacing the existing Longbarrow roundabout and a new junction between the A303 and A345 at the existing Countess roundabout.
Work is due to begin in 2021 with an expected opening date of 2026.
Author: CATHERINE KENNEDY
Disclaimer: This article was not originally written by a member of the Safer Highways team.