£400m tunnel helps reclaim the Devil’s Punchbowl

Inside Croydon does sometimes take time off, and long walks in the Surrey hills close to the borough are a favourite way of spending a Sunday morning, especially now that spring is in the air and the days are lengthening and warming.

A £400m hole in the ground: work at Hindhead is now almost complete

There’s also plenty going on within a short drive of Croydon to offer plenty of weekend interest. A feature in Surrey Life caught our eye, on the Hindhead Tunnel that is about to open on a stretch of the A3, a massive engineering feat which is “reclaiming” some Surrey heathland for nature.

The facts and figures about the tunnel are nothing short of awesome. Had such an engineering project been built – under budget and ahead of schedule – in continental Europe, rather than on our own doorstep, we’d be suitably humbled and impressed.

Consider this:

  • The project has cost £371 million
  • Four miles of new roads have been built
  • Almost 1.25 miles are the twin carriageway tunnels
  • Landscaping has planted 200,000 trees and shrubs

As Surrey Life writes, “The purpose: to shift 30,000 vehicles a day under rather than through the surrounding protected heathland site.”

The Hindhead Tunnel is the longest road tunnel under land in the UK. The traffic jams that normally slow journeys towards Portsmouth and the south coast, and the traffic that has so long blighted those that live in the nearby villages, should come to an end.

The project has taken nearly a decade to finish, and has kept Balfour Beatty’s Redhill offices very busy throughout that time.

What interests Inside Croydon about the whole scheme as much as the engineering is the manner in which efforts have been made to restore nature.

Once completed, views across the Devil’s Punchbowl, a site of special scientific interest, will be restored as it was last seen hundreds of years ago, while the wildlife in the area, including a colony of rare dormice, have been protected and left largely undisturbed.

Surrey Life reports: “The new tunnels are only for motor vehicles. A very interesting solution was found to provide for cyclists and horse-drawn vehicles. The existing A3 through Hindhead will be closed and returned to heathland. At the same time, a byway will be opened for the bicycle riders and the horses, following an almost-disappeared trackway through the woods that was the original London to Portsmouth road. So, old and new are playing their parts to solve a 21st century congestion problem.”

  • There is a Hindhead Tunnel Open Day taking place on Saturday May 14

Read the Surrey Life feature in full by clicking here

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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