January 22, 2006

UK lists five options for Stonehenge roads

By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters) - The government published five options
for road schemes around the ancient British monument of
Stonehenge on Monday, including a tunnel under the site
rejected as too expensive last year.

The circular monument of massive stones in Wiltshire,
southwest England, lies between two busy roads, one carrying up
to 33,000 vehicles a day.

Conservationists and government agencies responsible for
the site have for years been seeking a way of reducing or
diverting the traffic to improve the monument's immediate

Built between 3,000 BC and 1,600 BC as a temple, burial
ground, astronomical calendar or all three, the stone circle
has been described as "Britain's pyramids."

Tourists are drawn to Stonehenge throughout the year and on
the summer solstice -- the longest day of the year in the
northern hemisphere -- up to 30,000 revelers and druids
converge there for a night of celebration.

Since 1991, some 50 alternative road routes have been
considered, culminating in government approval in 2002 for a
scheme to reroute traffic from the busy A303 through a two
kilometer tunnel bored under the stone circle.

However, Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman rejected this
option in July last year after a public inquiry, saying it was
too expensive.

As well as the bored tunnel, the five options published for
public consultation by the Highways Agency on Monday include:

-- A "cut and cover" tunnel, first rejected in 2002

-- New roads further to the north or south of the monument

-- A "partial solution" which would retain the A303 but
shut the smaller A344 road passing the north side of the

Conservationists say the tunnel and new road proposals
would all cut through the Stonehenge World Heritage Site,
damaging a 10-square-mile area containing over 400 prehistoric

Archaeologist Kate Fielden, of Stonehenge Alliance, an
umbrella body of conservation groups, said the best solution
would be a 4.5 km tunnel going under the entire World Heritage
site, an option itself rejected on cost grounds in 1996.

A final report based on the consultation is due to be
submitted to ministers by early summer 2006.