A3 To Shut Again This Weekend

The A3 will close again at the Devil's Punchbowl in Surrey this weekend which some major landscaping work takes place - diversions will be signed.

As work to build the new Hindhead bypass - which includes the UK's longest under land road tunnel - continues nearby, engineers are already looking ahead to what will happen with the old road after it is closed.

As well as eliminating a notorious traffic bottleneck, the £371m A3 Hindhead project will transform the Devil's Punchbowl, part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Site of Special Scientific interest, by returning the old road to nature, with the tunnel instead carrying traffic underground.

The preliminary work will involve removing some trees and scrub alongside the existing A3, which have been allowed to grow along the road verges over the last 50 years, reducing the area of heathland for which the area is renowned.

Clearing the trees now will enable earthworks and restoration work to go ahead to return the old A3 to nature as soon as the new road opens to traffic next year. The trees are being felled now, outside of the nesting season, to avoid disturbing wild nesting birds and other protected species.

The work will be carried out under two weekend closures of the A3 in both directions between the Devil's Punchbowl Café near Hindhead, and the Milford Junction. The first weekend took place from Friday 01 to Monday 04 October, and the road will close again this weeked (Friday 08 - Monday 11 October). The road will close at 10pm on Friday night and reopen at 5am on Monday morning. Access to local properties will be maintained throughout.

All through traffic will be directed to use the A31 and the A325 between Guildford and Longmoor, and local access will be maintained using the A31 and the A287. The diversions will be clearly signed and have been agreed in advance with local highways authorities and the emergency services.

Highways Agency project manager Paul Arnold said:

"As with all parts of the Hindhead scheme, this tree felling is being carried out to the highest environmental standards, and it is important that the work is understood in the context of the enormous environmental benefits that the project will deliver.

"We have planned this work carefully to limit delays, and by carrying it out over the weekend we hope to limit overall disruption to road users and local people alike.

"The diversions are fairly lengthy however, and we would advise road users to plan their journeys and allow extra time to reach their destinations if they are affected by the diversions."

Work started on this £371m project on 8 January 2007 and it is due to open to traffic in Summer 2011. The scheme is on schedule and on budget. Tunnelling started in February 2008. In total, more than three quarters of a million cubic metres of earth have been moved to create the new road, and more than 3 million staff hours have been worked on the project.

The scheme will divert a length of some 4 miles (6.7km) of the existing A3 Portsmouth Road on to a new alignment, with a 1.8km section (about 1.25 miles) that passes under the Devil's Punch Bowl, placed in a twin bored tunnel, associated side roads and private means of access alterations, and the detrunking of a superseded section of the existing A3.