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Sun March 07 2021

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Bids called for £35m Stonehenge dig

2 Jun 20 Highways England is advertising for archaeologists to carry out digs along the route of the planned £1.7bn Stonehenge tunnel in Wiltshire.

While the upgrade of the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down past Stonehenge has yet to receive development consent from the government, Highways England is in negotiations with three teams of contractors pitching to build eight miles of new dual carriageway and a tunnel at least two miles long.

It has now published the contract notice for archaeological works on the route, which will only go ahead if planning consent is granted.

The £35m archaeology contract involves documentation, site works, processing, laboratory work, reporting and dissemination, as well as archaeological evaluation and recording. Bidders are being invited to tender via Highways England’s Bravo tendering portal

Highways England project director Derek Parody said: “The World Heritage Site around Stonehenge is a heritage site of national and international importance. We want to ensure that archaeological remains are preserved and recorded, in advance of scheme construction, by commissioning appropriate archaeological expertise.

“Throughout this project we have been working closely with the country’s heritage bodies and a scientific committee of eminent archaeological experts to ensure the scheme will conserve and enhance the World Heritage Site, and this will continue throughout the archaeological investigations and the construction process.

“The procurement process in no way pre-empts the granting of a development consent order and while we await the secretary of state’s decision, we need to progress the procurement to ensure the project is in the best position it can be in to proceed at pace thereafter.”

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Highways England’s proposed £1.7bn upgrade of the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down includes:

  • eight miles of dual carriageway
  • a two-mile twin-bore tunnel
  • a new bypass to the north of the village of Winterbourne Stoke, with a viaduct over the River Till valley
  • new junctions with the A345 and A360 either side of the World Heritage Site.

There was barely any interest from British construction companies for the job. The three shortlisted contracting teams are:

  • BMJV, comprising Bouygues Travaux Publics and J Murphy & Sons
  • HDJV, consisting of Hochtief Infrastructure GmbH and Dragados
  • MORE JV, comprising FCC Construcción (42.5%), Salini Impregilo (42.5%) and BeMo Tunnelling UK (15%).

The preferred bidder is expected to be announced sometime in 2021.

Following a six-month development consent order examination last year, the Planning Inspectorate sent its report and recommendation to the secretary of state for transport and this will be published once a decision has been made.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps recently announced a new deadline of 17th July for his development consent order decision for three Highways England projects – the A303 Stonehenge and A303 Sparkford to Ilchester schemes in Wiltshire, and the A63 Castle Street project in Hull. With the £355m A63 Castle Street project signed off on 1st June, ahead of the revised schedule, the A303 projects are next on his agenda.

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