Stonehenge tunnel plans at risk over funding uncertainty

A303 passing Stonehenge Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The government wants to build a tunnel past the monument as part of a plan to upgrade the A303

Uncertainty over funding to build a £2.4bn tunnel near Stonehenge puts the project at risk if it is not resolved before next year, a watchdog has said.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the DfT wanted to ask the Treasury for more cash to finance the scheme.

Cotswolds MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, deputy chair of the PAC, said plans to open the tunnel by 2026 were in doubt until a decision was made.

The DfT said the A303 and A358 project were on track to be delivered.

PF2 public-private funding was due to be used to finance the road but in October Chancellor Philip Hammond cancelled future deals using that model.

The Treasury released funding of £21.5m during 2019-20 to allow the project to continue.

'Pressing need'

A report by the PAC noted the DfT intended to ask the Treasury for additional funding as part of the next Spending Review as it did not intend to pay for the road under its existing Road Investment Strategy.

The committee also accused the DfT and Highways England of failing to give a clear idea of the benefits of the scheme.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said there was a "pressing need" for the DfT and Highways England to set out "exactly what benefits visitors and local people near the site can expect to see" as a result of the scheme.

A DfT spokesman said: "Development work is continuing as planned."

The proposed upgrade of the A303 includes a two-mile long tunnel beneath the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

The road, which currently passes the stones, often suffers from severe congestion as it is a popular route for motorists travelling between London and the South West.

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