The A3 road improvement scheme at Hindhead is nearing completion but before it officially opens to traffic the tunnel was open for one day only to allow members of the public to experience the tunnel close-up. This unique community brought together representatives of the design and construction team, including RPS and 6500 local people to walkthrough the UK’s longest under-land road tunnel.
The day featured local music groups which performed at the north end of the tunnel and, following their two kilometre tunnel-trek, walkers were greeted with the theme from the Great Escape.
The A3 trunk road is a major link between London and Portsmouth on England’s south coast. The scheme will tackle congestion and improve safety on this busy route – which carries an average of 28,400 vehicles per day. The 1.8km twin-bore tunnel will remove the trunk road from Hindhead village and from the Devil’s Punchbowl, a famous natural landmark.
The landscape around Hindhead is in an environmentally sensitive area. It lies within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the present A3 runs through the Devil's Punch Bowl Site of Special Scientific Interest, which is also part of an international Special Protection Area designated under the EU Direct on the Conservation of Wild Birds. These designations placed a severe constraint on mitigation and improvement options, but also created significant opportunities for environmental and landscape gain.
RPS has been involved with the project from the outset providing landscape, visual impact and ecological advice for the Environmental Statement and expert witness at the Public Inquiry. RPS went on to produce detailed landscape design proposals and is currently involved in the construction phase of the project monitoring the on site landscape and ecological works.
With the road opening shortly the heathland restoration of the existing A3, the final and arguably the most unique phase of the environmental improvements will begin. The removal of the highway from the Devil’s Punchbowl, an internationally important heathland landscape, will allow the landform and heathland to be restored.
The restoration will not only see the improvement and extension of the existing heathland habitat but will also restore historic views and viewpoints and significantly improve accessibility and the environment for walkers, horse riders and cyclists.