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Proposed land train to Stones too 'intrusive'
A PROPOSAL to run a land train as part of plans for a new £67.5m Stonehenge visitors centre has come under fire during the second week of the Salisbury public inquiry.
The aim is to use the train to transport tourists from the visitors centre to within walking distance of the ancient stones.
But the chairman of the Stonehenge Alliance, George McDonic, said the trains would conflict with both national and international policies that seek to protect the landscape around the World Heritage site.
He said his group was opposed to the transit system, but not the visitors centre itself.
Mr McDonic, who was the first of five Alliance witnesses to give evidence to the visitors centre inquiry, said: "The proposed land trains would operate in one of the most important heritage sites. They would be intrusive and their presence will not conserve this precious landscape."
The Stonehenge Alliance is made up from a number of archaeological, environmental, and transport, as well as Pagan organisations that oppose the proposal for the visitors centre and the road scheme.
Mr McDonic said the development should not begin until the planning authority had been given full details of the land train shelters to be built at the drop-off areas.
He also said he did not have an alternative transport solution, instead suggesting the matter should go back to public consultation.
In cross-examination he did agree that there would be "substantial benefits" from removing the existing visitors centre and that interpretation and exploration of the World Heritage site would be better with the new visitors centre.
Archaeologist Dr Kate Fielden gave evidence about the effect the land train would have on the location.
She said: "Operating in the north-eastern part of the site, it will be both visibly and audibly intrusive, particularly at King Barrow Ridge. The exceptional views will become further damaged by modern intrusions, such as the A303, which already impinges."
She added that financial considerations seemed to be more important to English Heritage than what was best for the World Heritage site and that the current site was better for dispersal into the surrounding landscape.
A Friends of the Earth representative Kate Freeman spoke about the transport arrangements for the visitors centre site, saying the 581 car spaces proposed were very high and would lead to increased congestion, more frequent queues and would cause problems for emergency vehicles.
Mathematician Dr John Moon, the final witness for Stonehenge Alliance, gave evidence about the noise disturbance the land train would create - an issue that was raised again yesterday, when residents and other interested parties made statements to the inquiry.