Long-awaited Stonehenge tunnel at heart of new £2bn Expressway route to South West

The long-awaited Stonehenge tunnel to carry the A303 beneath the famous World Heritage Site is at the heart of the government’s £2bn plans to transform routes into Devon and Cornwall.


Go-ahead for the 1.8 mile tunnel beneath Stonehenge is central to the Department for Transport’s plans for a new A303 Expressway from the M3 via the M5 to Exeter contained in its first ever five year Roads investment Strategy.

“There is only one way to fix this: a bored tunnel to take the A303 away from the surface." DfT

This strategy sets out the government’s ambition for the network over the next five years. The introduction of Expressway as a new class of strategically important trunk road will add to the network with improved and consistent standards and technology and will be rolled out initially in the South West.

“There have long been calls for a new strategic corridor to the South West but concerns about damage to Stonehenge have stopped past proposals,” says the Strategy. 

“There is only one way to fix this: a bored tunnel to take the A303 away from the surface. This will reunite the landscape and environment around Stonehenge and will also unlock the rest of the A303 for upgrade to Expressway standard.”

In total six widening over the next 14 years will upgrade the A303/A358 to provide an enhanced corridor to Exeter including improvement to bottlenecks at Taunton and Sparkford.

Improvement will also be see to the A30 across Devon and Cornwall to take this road up to a consistent Expressway standard reaching a far as Camborne. 

“I’ve been calling for a tunnel underneath Stonehenge as part of wider upgrades along the A303, a lifeline for businesses in the South West, so I am glad to see it getting the green light.” John Cridland, CBI

New Expressways Smart motorways and will form the backbone of the nation’s strategic road network with a new emphasis placed on being a better neighbour, according to the government’s new Road Investment Strategy published today. 

The Confederation of British Industries (CBI) welcomed both trhe Road Investment Strategy and the decision to move ahead with a tunnel on th A303 beneath Stonehenge.

“This five-year strategy marks a significant milestone in our journey towards the delivery of much-needed upgrades to our existing road network, the arteries of our economy,” said CBI director general John Cridland. 

“I’ve been calling for a tunnel underneath Stonehenge as part of wider upgrades along the A303, a lifeline for businesses in the South West, so I am glad to see it getting the green light,” he added. 

“It is essential now that we see a commitment from all sides to take this programme forward in the coming Parliament, shifting our focus towards delivery.”

The strategy sets out plans to spend over £15bn in the five years to 2020/21 with 84 new schemes added to the programme announced in 2013 and including £900M for so-called cross cutting improvements to reduce the impact of the existing network on communities.

In its first ever five year plan for developing the nation’s highways network, the DfT has set out what it describes as a “deliberately ambitious” and demanding vision for the evolving Highways Agency to deliver in its first five year ”Road Period” .

“We must invest to address today’s issues and also meet our future needs,” says the document. “We are taking a markedly different approach, focusing on longer term investment and planning, underpinned by the step change in funding announced at the 2013 Spending Round.”


Generally dual carriage and built “to be safe and resilient to delay” with grade separated junctions to provide a consistent “motorway quality journey”.

In total the plan says that 127 new roads schemes will come forward in this first Road Period, describing it as “the largest programme of investment for a generation”

Importantly the strategy will see the introduction of a new class of Expressways routes on strategically important trunk routes to create consistent “motorway quality” journey alongside an uninterrupted Smart Motorway network linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Yorkshire.

And alongside these planned schemes, the 2040 vision for the nation’s network also includes funding for a series of eye-catching new “Strategic Studies” into ambitious projects such as a Trans-Pennine tunnel, the Manchester Orbital, an Oxford to Cambridge Expressway and options to improve the congested south west quadrant of the M25.

The Roads Investment Strategy by Region

The Road Investment Strategy sets the Highways Agency challenges across the whole of its national network and breaks down investment into six regions. Looking around the regions we see investment plans:

South West

  • 7 schemes worth £2bn investment over the next five years
  • A tunnel at Stonehenge to allow A303 to be dualled
  • A303/A358 to provide an enhanced Expressway corridor to Exeter
  • A30 and A417 to be upgraded to Expressway standard link through Devon and Cornwall almost to Land’s End.
  • Consultation to decide the future management strategy for the Severn Crossings.

North East England and Yorkshire

  • Motorway from Newcastle to London complete by 2017
  • 18 schemes worth around £2.3bn to be invested in next five years
  • Smart motorways across the Pennines on M62 linking Leeds to Manchester with four lanes, Leeds to Sheffield and Sheffield to London.
  • Strategic study into a multi-billion pound Trans-Pennine tunnel
  • Planning to upgrade A1 in Yorkshire between Darlington and Redhouse.

North West

  • Four lane motorway from Manchester to Leeds
  • 9 schemes worth £800M investment over five years
  • Smart motorway widening of the M56 from A556 to M60 to four lanes
  • Smart spine along the M6 and M1
  • Strategic study into a multi-billion pound Trans-Pennine tunnel


  • 17 schemes worth £1.4bn investment over five years
  • Smart motorways to link London, Birmingham and Manchester
  • Housing growth supported by 11 schemes
  • Smart motorway to connect Worcester to the Birmingham Box and between Nottingham and Sheffield and to the north to connect Stoke, and on to Manchester, and south to Milton Keynes
  • Completion of the London to Yorkshire Smart Motorway.
  • Major upgrade of the region’s A road network
  • improving the M42 to the east of Birmingham, improving the connectivity to Birmingham airport, the National Exhibition Centre, the local Enterprise Zone, and pave the way for the new High Speed 2 interchange station

East of England

  • 15 schemes worth £1.5bn investment over five years
  • Dualling the Cambridge to Milton Keynes link
  • Support to improve access to Felixstowe and Ipswich ports
  • Improvement to the A47 to build in the A11 Expressway upgrade.
  • Strategic study into a Cambridge, Milton Keynes to Oxford Expressway to enhance the existing A421 and A428
  • Smart motorway introduced to tA1(M) around Stevenage

London and the South East

  • 18 schemes worth £1.4bn investment over five years
  • Improvement around 10 of 31 junctions on the M25
  • Smart technology introduced to eight motorways
  • Strategic study into long term solution to congestion around the South West quadrant of the M25
  • Smart motorways will be introduced to M27 around Southampton and Portsmouth
  • Junction upgrades on M25 at junction 30 to assist access to London Gateway Port, on the M20 at Dover and the M271 for improve access to Southampton Docks.
  • £30M invested in route management technology on A34
  • Strategic study into a Cambridge, Milton Keynes to Oxford Expressway to enhance the existing A421 and A428
If you would like to contact Antony Oliver about this, or any other story, please email