After over 30 years of discussion and 4 years of excavation and finishing works, the £371m A3 Hindhead Tunnel (built by Balfour Beatty) opened fully to traffic today. Southbound traffic started using the tunnel on Wednesday and this morning (Friday), the northbound bore was opened.
Hopefully, the queues of past years are behind us and this major bottle-neck in the southeast of England has finally been eliminated.
It was suggested this week that the Hindhead tunnel marks the last major road project in England, certainly for the foreseeable future. One casualty of Government cuts is the proposed relief road around the historic site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Basically, the money has run out for huge public works projects!
Click here for my earlier post of the A3 Hindhead Tunnel walkthrough in May 2011.
Balfour Beatty and the Highways Agency built this 1.2 mile, £371m twin bore tunnel under the well-known UK national beauty spot, the Devil’s Punchbowl, situated near Hindhead in Surrey.
The A3 is the main London to Portsmouth trunk road. The sole set of traffic lights on this road are at Hindhead, just south of Guildford on the Surrey / Hampshire border. It is these lights that have caused years and years of traffic delays resulting in hours and hours of lost time and additional petrol and diesel costs. This is now the longest underland road tunnel in Britain, completing the dual carriageway between the capital and the coast.
The BBC reported, ‘The Devil’s Punchbowl, a large hollow of dry sandy heath to the west of Hindhead, is a site of special scientific interest and part of an international special protection area designated under the EU Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. The existing A3 between the National Trust café and Boundless Road will be closed to through-traffic after the tunnel is opened and acres of land returned to heathland’.
After 30 years of lobbying, and owing to the need to get visitors down quickly to the sailing venue at Weymouth for the 2012 Olympics, the go-ahead was finally given for the project. Work began in January 2007. Over four years later, here we are and the A3 Tunnel opens for traffic this July and is expected to carry well over 30,000 vehicles a day.
The public walkthrough was held on Saturday 14th May 2011. Almost 7,000 local residents and visitors took part but many others missed out due to serious problems with ticketing and an inadequate website leading to considerable unhappiness locally.
We did manage to get tickets (after logging on one morning at 5am!) and – having already put up with a decade of development of the West Coast Rail Line whilst living in the north of England and having now spent several years of ‘rat-running’ through the Surrey lanes every morning to avoid the queues on the A3 – I was really pleased to be viewing the tunnel up close at long last. Hopefully, our morning commute will be less stressful in future?
I must say however that, having seen a number of major road tunnels in Norway, this one is not quite as impressive as some of its larger and wider European cousins.