Realism is key to Stonehenge road scheme

WE wait with bated breath, again, for yet another A303 decision.

Back in early December, Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, announced that a feasibility study had been started into the A303, with the expectation that by the end of this year, full plans for this route will have been set out. So that’s great, isn't it?

Well actually, no, not at all. Not that I am giving up hope before we even start, but I have only ever known of such plans fall flat under successive governments.

Understandably, with Stonehenge being a world heritage site, the idea of having a tunnel or a diversion away from it has resurfaced several times.

John Glen (View from the Commons, March 6) is quite right in that tunnelling technology has moved on and costs are now lower than in 1996.

However, a tunnel is always going to be prohibitively expensive. You might hope that with the furore caused by the closure of the A344 at Stonehenge that progress will come. But one must bear in mind that the single carriageway choke point between west Amesbury and Winterbourne Stoke is only one of several such choke points along the route into the West Country, each causing unnecessary misery to commuters, holiday makers and road haulage businesses.

It would cost billions of pounds to upgrade this route to a standard that is agreeable to all concerned.

Until we accept a reasonable cost solution to the A303 “dualling” at Stonehenge, we cannot reasonably expect to have such improvements to be funded out of the pot when less money can be spent to give improvements to people’s lives in other places.

We are not just competing nationally for road improvements we are also competing for value for money with an anticipated return through the reduction of road congestion in locations up and down the country. Historically, every time a plan is created, it is deemed substandard and so further reviews and explorations take place, the costs rise and the moments of hope are soon dashed.

So come December we will see our next plan for Stonehenge, and history will get the opportunity to repeat itself once again. All hope is not lost, but we do need to be realistic. I just hope that the closure of the A344 helps to reinforce the urgent need for works to be carried out on this section of the A303.

Tom Corbin, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Salisbury Constituency


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