Beaminster death tunnel reopening delayed

A3066 tunnel The tunnel repair works have a life expectancy of 120 years

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The reopening of a road tunnel where two people died in a landslip last summer has been delayed.

Rosemary Snell and Michael Rolfe, from Somerset, died when their car was buried at Beaminster Tunnel in Dorset.

The slopes at the side of the tunnel are to be stabilised with 1,000 nails each measuring up to 12 metres (39ft).

But Dorset County Council said testing and design work had overrun with the planned reopening date at the end of May put back by three to five weeks.

The authority blamed part of the delay on the high demand for geotechnical engineers across the country due to an increase in landslips.

'Devastating news'

Beaminster ward county councillor Rebecca Knox said: "Residents, businesses and neighbouring parishes have been majorly inconvenienced due to the tunnel closure, and any delay is a massive blow.

"I hope the highways project team will be able to get on with all aspects of the work as each matter is resolved to get the road reopened as soon as possible."

The nails will be able to hold weights 1.5 times greater than the load they are expected to take at the site, the council said.

Rosemary Snell - Rosemary Snell died with Michael Rolfe in the landslip in July

The portal arches at each end of the A3066 tunnel will also be strengthened.

The council approved the works, which have a life expectancy of 120 years, in November after an engineers' report said soil pinning would "reduce the likelihood of future slips".

Councillor Peter Finney, member for highways, said: "We know this is devastating news for the community, and it is certainly not what we had foreseen happening.

"The design process is complex and does take time. It is extremely important that we get it right."

Ms Snell, 67, and Mr Rolfe, 72, went missing on the day of the landslip but it was not until nine days later that Avon and Somerset Police alerted colleagues in Dorset that the couple had been traced to the Beaminster area.

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