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Updated: Guildford’s MP Asks PM for an A3 Tunnel – Boris Agrees to Look Into It

Published on: 15 Jul, 2021
Updated on: 19 Jul, 2021

Angela Richardson asks her question during yesterday’s PMQs via video link.

The proposal to bore a tunnel to take the A3 under Guildford was raised by Angela Richardson, MP for the constituency, at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions or “PMQs”.

The prime minister, saying he knew the A3 through Guildford very well, agreed to “look into it” but explained that the government was already spending “record sums” – £27 billion – on England’s road infrastructure.

Lib Dem Zoe Franklin, who stood against Ms Richardson at the 2019 general election, dismissed the question as “gesture politics” (see full comment below).

Hansard recorded the question and Boris Johnson’s answer in full:

This evening Ms Richardson said: “I was really pleased to be able to ask the Prime Minister about the prospect of tunnelling the A3 under Guildford, which would be a massive infrastructure boost to our local economy in terms of air and noise pollution and time wasted in traffic congestion.

“The Prime Minister agreed that this was the kind of project that the £27 billion this government is investing in roads would be used for.

“He knows the A3 and the Guildford junction and was emphatic about the fact the project would be considered. I’m sure no-one would expect the Prime Minister would agree on the hoof to any complex infrastructure projects at Question Time so I’m really encouraged by his response.

“This follows on from raising this issue with the Prime Minister a few weeks ago and asking a question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the chamber too. I will continue to push this concept forward to Highways England, ministers and all branches of government for the benefit of everyone in Guildford.”

Former council leader Paul Spooner promised when the Local Plan was being debated in 2019 that housing developments would not go ahead without the necessary infrastructure provision. Current A3 capacity represents a major constraint.

Cllr Ramsey Nagaty

But Ramsey Nagaty, the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) leader,  was less than positive about the MP’s question. He said: “I feel that our MP is grandstanding on the A3 issue.

“The Local Plan was produced with some so-called strategic sites allegedly dependent on A3 improvements.

“GBC’s planning department have been trying to justify alternative solutions to enable these developments but I cannot see how any minor tweaks can provide the ‘infrastructure first’ promised in the Local Plan 2019.

“Building a tunnel will take years with major disruption.

“If completed, it will merely attract even more traffic up and down the A3 as opposed to the M27 / M3 routes to and from London and the South Coast and ports. Just look what has happened since the Hindhead tunnel was built. More cars and especially more lorries on the A3.

“Any tunnel would have devastating effects on the road through Compton and Shalford, which is a de-fact Eastern / Southern ring road and already has two Air Quality Management Areas declared due to high pollution from the traffic. Hence no additional traffic should be generated by further developments and the tunnel joining or coming out will attract more traffic.

“A far better use of money would be a tunnel under the gyratory in the centre of the town, removing traffic from the bottom of the High Street and opening up the town to the river.”

Mark Bray-Parry

Mark Bray-Parry, spokesman for The Green Party in Guildford, said: “The fact that Angela Richardson continues to push for a tunnel beneath Guildford, along with widening the A3, shows a lack of understanding of the urgency of climate change.

“Just as with the government’s Road Investment Strategy (RIS2), the money being proposed to accommodate cars would be much better spent encouraging active travel and public transport. The benefits for doing so would be seen in both the nation’s health and the environment.”

Zoe Franklin, speaking a spokesperson for Guildford’s Lib Dems, said: “Ms Richardson’s A3 tunnel idea is nothing more than gesture politics. If she was serious she would already have had proper discussions with local residents and the borough and county councils about the need for and viability of the idea.

“As it is, the proposal is completely lacking in detail and has largely been met with derision on social media, which is unsurprising given Ms Richardson’s lack of consultation and the complete absence of commitment from the PM. Her earlier petition on this collected just 137 signatures. She does not speak for the people of Guildford.

“The reality is that a tunnel would not fix the immediate issues of air pollution and noise. More practical and immediate solutions to these problems would be to look at resurfacing with a low-noise road surface and investing in viable and affordable green transport options that enable people to choose to get out of their cars.”



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Responses to Updated: Guildford’s MP Asks PM for an A3 Tunnel – Boris Agrees to Look Into It

  1. H Trevor Jones Reply

    July 16, 2021 at 2:03 pm

    Do we know how much such a tunnel would cost? Did Angela Richardson not consider instead asking for a railway flyover at Woking, which has already been proposed long-term in conjunction with other works as a means of enabling more electric trains to run to London and enabling a direct electric service from Guildford to Heathrow?

    I don’t know the flyover’s cost but instinct tells me it’s much cheaper than an A3 tunnel, and on a global basis, mindful of climate change, it must be much better value for money.

    When we get back to crowded trains, it should also be popular with voters who commute to London.

  2. RWL Davies Reply

    July 16, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    Sensible idea but won’t happen within the next 40 years.

    Consider how long it took for the Hindhead tunnel to “happen”; 40+ years from inception?.

    When the Hindhead tunnel did “happen” it was completed within time and budget.

    Guildford has been a “crossroads” for thousands of years; exactly how many remains unresolved.

    “Something must be done” as the South East’s housing density inexorably increases; that genie is not going back in the bottle.

  3. David Roberts Reply

    July 16, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    Obscure backbencher gets meaningless kind word from PM.

    Next up: PM tells Mole Valley MP, Sir Paul Beresford, he likes the countryside.

    Expect to see more of this kind of thing as threatened “blue wall” MPs fight for crumbs of comfort from the government.

  4. Linda Parker Reply

    July 17, 2021 at 11:50 am

    The online petition started by Angela Richardson in favour of the A3 tunnel currently has a glitch. Don’t click in the link or your signature will automatically be added.

    • Alan Morris Reply

      July 18, 2021 at 12:37 pm

      I don’t know about the link automatically adding your signature but in the two weeks since launching the petition on change. org it has only attracted 39 signatures.

      Couple that with Angela Richardson’s Facebook page for the tunnel which has only attracted 130 followers, and the lack of a popular clamour for this project in Guildford and you are left wondering why, with so little evident support, she should be raising the issue with the Prime Minister.

  5. David Wragg Reply

    July 17, 2021 at 12:53 pm

    So, a tunnel will attract more traffic? Following that line of thought, we had better stop building schools and hospitals.

    While I agree that a railway flyover at Woking would be better value and could be in place more quickly, something has to be done about the A3 at Guildford. There is insufficient space for traffic on the surface, so going underground makes sense.

    As for getting people out of their cars, that is a dream, or a nightmare. I was on a bus a year or two back, on the upper deck, and when I went downstairs prior to getting off a couple were sitting with a child in a pushchair. The infant was screaming its head off. Nothing was being done to comfort the child. So if that is public transport, no thanks.

    As I always say, the real problem about the country is that there are too many people.

  6. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 17, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    A business case has to be made and benefits must be more than the cost to justify such a tunnel.

    The cost of a 5½ mile tunnel, based on the cost of the Hindhead Tunnel, only a fifth of the length, would be in excess of £1.8 billion. Technically it is possible to construct such a tunnel but longer tunnels pose other safety problems such as dealing with accidents inside them.

    Readers may look up this link and some 30 comments that followed, in…/letter-ideas…/ The widening of the A3 has been shelved for now and Highways England to date has not made any ideas of widening public.

    I believe widening to three lanes from the A31 junction to Stoke Road junction is possible. It would cost a great deal less than a tunnel. Funding for a tunnel, if it is a viable proposition, will have to wait when we have recovered from the economic downturn and that is a long way ahead.

    In the meantime, the A3 widening scheme should be progressed as a matter of urgency. Millions of pounds of savings could be made when Highways England uses innovative methods.

  7. Christopher Jay Reply

    July 18, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    The A3 through Guildford is undoubtedly a problem. The road was built 100 years ago as a bypass to the town. It now runs through it. Widening the road through the limited space available in the middle of the town will be very unpleasant for those near the road. A tunnel is the perfect solution. The A3 tunnel works beautifully at Hindhead. Angela Richardson’s attempts to solve the town’s major traffic jam should be welcomed.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      July 18, 2021 at 10:49 pm

      The section between London Road and Woodbridge Road was built in the early 1930s. The section from Burpham to Dennis roundabout was built in the mid-1980s.

      The problem is not the two-lane section on its own. The problem areas are the off-slip at Stoke Road junction and the on-slip at Dennis roundabout. Stoke Road off-slip has been widened and it has reduced somewhat the tailbacks blocking the A3.

      At the Dennis Roundabout, the on-slip should be taken separately to the Cathedral Roundabout and then access the widened A3 southbound whilst the off-slip to this roundabout would be retained.

      The A3 could be widened by incorporating the footpaths alongside within the widened carriageways over most of its length except behind Beechcroft Drive properties where a retaining wall would be required and a couple of pinch points along Beckingham Road and possibly Ash Grove.

      A tunnel might seem a perfect solution but the cost would be prohibitive as explained in my previous comments.

      A longer tunnel has safety issues for dealing with accidents within it. Air ambulances can’t reach an accident site and emergency vehicles may have to reach from the opposite end to the accident spot. Not good when time is the essence for saving lives.

      Pedestrian passages between the tunnels at 500m intervals would be required. Fresh air needs to be pumped in and toxic fumes would have to be extracted and filtered before discharging on the air above the surface. Where would these be located if the tunnels go under residential areas?

      I recall research for tunnel safety, after the fire in Mont Blanc, recommended a hard shoulder for quick access by emergency vehicles for longer tunnels with high volume of traffic. This would increase the tunnel width and consequently the cost considerably. The EU directive is a useful document although we are no longer in the EU.

      Those who think a tunnel is the solution for the A3 problem should think again. Disposing of the spoil for a 5.5 mile long tunnel would be hugely detrimental environmentally and on the existing road network for their transportation.

  8. Angela Richardson Reply

    July 19, 2021 at 11:39 am

    Linda Parker is not on the list of those who have signed the petition.

    There are a series of steps one has to go through to sign, so I’m afraid Ms Parker’s claim, if she is speaking for herself, is incorrect.

    People do auto-enrol themselves to 38 degrees etc. I know because they write to me and are often surprised to receive a response.

    Angela Richardson is the Conservative MP for Guildford

  9. John Schluter Reply

    July 21, 2021 at 11:32 pm

    Best not involve the clown in Number 10 in any transport ideas.

    The chump blew £53 million on a non-existent garden bridge, wasted God knows how much on unusable double-decker buses and as for the cable-car service across the Thames that hardly anyone uses…

    Meantime, keep dodging the potholes on our roads.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      July 22, 2021 at 7:49 am

      Pot holes? They are caused by a piece of paper, the paper on which the instruction is written to repair when the hole is 40mm deep which was the old topcoat thickness. Now the standard topcoat is 35mm.

      This means that hydraulic action occurs until the bonding/undercoat has been penetrated by 5mm.

      This has been raised with SCC back as far as 2010 and before, but unfortunately those responsible, the council officers, seem deaf to the obvious. It is not a political problem but a technical one.

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