The construction of a tunnel under Stonehenge would help boost the UK economy, says John Cridland, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The tunnel would also ease congestion on the A303, the road that runs past the prehistoric monument.
Business leaders say the two-mile £600 million tunnel needs to be built to end decades of congestion in one of the UK’s busiest roads.
Mr. Cridland said “The most significant barrier is Stonehenge. You obviously can’t move it, so why not go under it?”
An upgrade to the A303, which connects Honiton in Devon to Basingstoke in Hampshire, is expected in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement.
Mr. Cridland, who studied history at Christ’s College, Cambridge, said:
“If I could have one wish from George Osborne in this year’s autumn statement it is that he would agree to a tunnel under Stonehenge.”
The Highways Agency’s Stonehenge tunnel proposal seven years ago was turned down because it was too expensive.
Having a tunnel go under Stonehenge is not a new idea. Seven years ago a proposal was put forward to build a tunnel that would go under the monument as well as through parts of the A303/A30/A358 corridor. It was turned down because of costs.
After years of intense lobbying from archeological and environmental groups, as well as local councils, the likelihood of one being approved today has increased considerably.
Conservative MP for Salisbury, John Glen, has been campaigning for a tunnel for years. Earlier this year he said “(there is an urgent) need for investment in the road network around Stonehenge in order to unlock the long-term benefits associated with reduced travel times for business people and tourists.”
The main highway alongside Stonehenge is fraught with traffic problems at the best of times, despite a change in the road layout.
The National Trust, which says the volume of traffic around Stonehenge is harmful to the area, backs the idea of a tunnel.
Ian Wilson, from the National Trust, said:
“We believe building a tunnel under the landscape is the best way of improving the quality of this special place whilst at the same time significantly improving a major transport link for the South West. We would like to see the longest possible tunnel but we recognise that any plan needs to be both affordable and deliverable if we’re to finally solve this long-running challenge.”