TOUR guides who bring thousands of visitors to Stonehenge every year have blasted the £27million improvement project currently under way.
They predict it will mean some tours will bypass the stones in favour of visiting elsewhere.
The new development will see tourists arriving at the visitor centre, 2km away, and either taking a ten-minute shuttle to the stones or walking there.
English Heritage says visitors will enjoy a “much quieter and greener experience”
and are recommending tour operators plan a “dwell time” of at least two hours for groups to “fully appreciate and enjoy the enhanced experience”.
But tour guides say they only allow for an hour at the site, and extending this would prevent them from offering tours that take in visits to three or four places, such as Windsor, Bath and Salisbury, on the same day.
Don Cross, managing director of Wessexplore, said: “Tourists from all over the world often have limited time on their expensive programmes and wish to see as much as possible in their visit.
“This system with ‘landtrains’ will physically not be able to deliver this kind of service.”
Other concerns include the lack of shelter by the stones and the “escape back to the coach” option no longer being available if the weather is bad.
Chief executive of VisitWiltshire, David Andrews, said that while visitor numbers may drop in the short term, there was a “fantastic opportunity” for Wiltshire and Salisbury to encourage people to stay in the county for longer.
He said: “At present, coach tours stay for as little as a couple of minutes at Stonehenge but with the much bigger and richer experience being offered by English Heritage, there’s a much greater chance that people will visit Wiltshire and Salisbury and stay. Stonehenge is iconic enough that coach operators have to include it and they will have to change their programme.”