Long-awaited Hindhead tunnel opens

A long-awaited tunnel on a Surrey stretch of the A3 is opening today after a four-year construction project.

The £371m project has been in planning since as long ago as 1983, before work finally started in January 2007 to create the double-bore tunnel under the Devil's Punch Bowl on the A3 near Hindhead in Surrey.
The southbound carriageway will open first, with the northbound stretch due to open "in a few days time". Transport secretary Philip Hammond is due to cut the ribbon at 10.30am today to allow cars to start using the tunnel, pictured before completion above. Around 30,000 vehicles are expected to use the new road every day when it gets up to capacity.

The new stretch of road is four miles long, with the tunnels themselves 1.2 miles long, meaning the project costs £155,000 a metre – or as much per inch as a string of pearls according to an official Twitter account set up posing as the tunnel.

Other points of interest include lights inside that are twice as bright as the ones at Old Trafford stadium, 104 CCTV camera and a total of 737,000 cubic metres of earth were removed in the building process.

Work on digging up the existing A3 is set to commence in August and be finished by the end of the year, and any last bits of landscaping and planting are due to be complete by March 2012.

AA president Edmund King welcomed the opening, saying: "This is how road building in the UK should be done - a win for the local community, a win for the natural environment and a win for drivers and freight going from London to Portsmouth.

"Compared to the mega sums needed for rail investment, comparatively low-cost road schemes can save a significant number of lives, relieve communities, eliminate congestion, improve journey times, protect the environment and assist the local and national economy."
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