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The Hindhead Tunnel is a road tunnel in Surrey that allows the A3 to bypass the town of Hindhead. Construction started in early 2007, and it opened to traffic in July 2011.
A plan to bypass and improve the A3 around the Hindhead area had been proposed for some time. During the early 1970s, a route strategy study was made to see what improvements could be made to the road between Guildford and Petersfield, which was still mostly single carriageway at this point. At this point, plans were to mostly improve the road online (some of these online improvements can be seen on the old A3 - now the B2070 - between Liphook and the A272). These plans were scrapped when the Conservative Government came into power in 1979 and reviewed the general trunk road programme.
In 1983, the plan to improve the route at Hindhead was revived, with a proposed bypass running around the north and west side of Hindhead Common at an estimated cost of £6M, but this failed at the public enquiry in 1987. After several other schemes, using a mixture of online dualling and bypasses were rejected on environmental grounds, a revised route was planned in 1995 which included the feasibility of using cut and cover or bored tunnels, at an estimated cost of £35M.
The need for an improvement around Hindhead became more apparent as the A3 was gradually upgraded from a single carriageway route to being mostly dualled and grade separated, particularly after the Liphook and Petersfield Bypass opened in 1992, after which point the section around Hindhead became the only single carriageway part of the route between the M25 and A27.
The earlier schemes were scrapped as part of Labour's "New Deal For Roads" plans when they entered office in 1997, focusing instead on improving the signal timings at the crossroads with the A287. However in 1999, John Prescott confirmed that a further study of the A3 at Hindhead would be made in the next two years. The Tunnel then entered the Government's targetted programme of road schemes in 2001.
In 2003, Tim Matthews, Chief Executive of the Highways Agency confirmed that, subsequent to further borehole work to determine the geology around Hindhead Common, that construction of the tunnel would begin in 2005 and open to traffic in 2009.
Initial construction started in early 2007, with work on the tunnel commencing in March 2008. Construction progressed from North to South as the spoil from the tunnel was used to build the embankments on the northern approach. By late 2008, the grade separated junction at Grayshott was starting to take shape and various bridges had been built.
Construction of the tunnel broke through on February 26, 2009.
In September 2010, it was announced that there would be a walk through of the tunnels on 14th May 2011.
The tunnel was planned to open on 6th July 2011, but was postponed due to a fault in the air conditioning. It finally opened to southbound traffic at 10:50am on 27th July, 2011, starting with a vintage car parade. Northbound traffic opened at 11:25am on 29th July, 2011. Traffic on the old A3 was stopped at 11:00am, with the last vehicle passing through the lights with the A287 at 11:12am, after which an engineer put up diversion signs. By 11:30am, cones had appeared immediately after the turn to the National Trust car park, at which point the old road through the Devil's Punchbowl became permanently closed. After a few days, the old road was already being cut up and closed with barriers.
- Highways England: Post Opening Project Evaluation - A3 Hindhead (5 Years After) August 2017 (archive.org)