Boris hints at support for A303 dualling

Just weeks after plans to dual the A303 where thrown into doubt, Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson has offered long-suffering motorists a grain of hope.

Speaking at leadership hustings in Exeter, he said: “Isn’t it time the A303 is modernised?”

A bottleneck on a main artery into the South West, the road is infamous for long delays.

Popular with tourists and commuters, as well as local traffic, its notoriety has even been the inspiration for books.

Running on from the A30, it connects Devon to Somerset and beyond.

The Department for Transport was considering eight individual projects to upgrade the trunk road and speed up journey times. Proposals have been in the pipeline for years.

However, the National Audit Office has cast doubt on an important aspect of the scheme – the controversial tunnel at Stonehenge between Amesbury and Berwick Down.

It said: “In pure economic terms, because of the high cost of building a tunnel, the Amesbury to Berwick Down project, at £1.15 of quantified benefit for every £1 spent, has a significantly lower benefit–cost ratio than is usual in road schemes.

“Given our experience of cost increases on projects of this kind, this ratio could move to an even lower or negative value. It will be even more important therefore that the Department and Highways England ensure that the project meets its strategic and heritage objectives, and that Highways England manages the project well.

“Currently, there are risks to Highways England’s approach that it will need to manage to ensure future value for money for the Amesbury to Berwick Down project, and its other investments along the A303/A358 corridor.”

At the same hustings, Mr Johnson’s leadership rival, Jeremy Hunt, indicated he would support a better train service.

Sections of the A303 have been used by travellers for as many as 3,000 years. In the early 1900s, it was considered a contemporary coaching route from Honiton to London.

An extensive rail network, developed in the 1800s, saw its popularity decline and it wasn’t until 1933 – before the rise and rise of the modern motorway – that it was revived.

Many motorists, who prefer it over the M5, now consider the A303 in need of major investment.

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