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Letter: Caverns Exploration Gives Idea For Road Tunnel Under Town Centre

Published on: 11 Jan, 2013
Updated on: 28 Jul, 2014

From Dick Hazlewood

I am not Guildfordian, only arriving in 1970. But as a member of the University of Surrey Pothole Club, I helped conduct a survey of the Guildford Caverns, in Racks Close.

emailsThey are well known to former Guildford Museum curator Matthew Alexander and other local historians, but are now bricked up for safety.

They are entirely artificial, a past source of building stone I gather. But we (Jim Delderfield and I) were particularly interested in one structure we found, which seemed to us likely to be linked to the surface above, somewhere in the Castle Grounds. We surmised that it was an old well, but that it might have provided a secret “sally port” for the castle, and perhaps fed the rumours of a more extensive “underground Guildford”.

Given the structural strength of the rock, I have wondered if a new tunnel might ease traffic congestion. OK I was day dreaming, but I think it could work.

It would need a 600m long tunnel to link York Road (by the Foxenden Quarry car park) to Shalford Road, passing right under the castle and indeed the town centre. I suspect many would object!

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Responses to Letter: Caverns Exploration Gives Idea For Road Tunnel Under Town Centre

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 15, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Anyone with up to date knowledge should make it known. Tunnelling technology is so far advanced today that such an idea is worth following up. The other option for a tunnel would be along the A3 from quarter of a mile south of Clay lane Burpham to the slope at the south side of the Hogs back bridge. A straight line road tunnel bored under the town would solve the A3 traffic problem in the blink of and eye – if the will is there.

  2. Matthew Alexander Reply

    January 21, 2013 at 11:01 am

    The idea of a road tunnel under Guildford town centre is not a new one. In November 1940, when the Foxenden Quarry Deep Shelter was under construction, the Borough Surveyor proposed a trial tunnel should be dug from it to establish the feasibility of a road tunnel from the London Road via Racks Close to the Shalford Road. A short stretch of this pilot tunnel was dug, and can still be seen, but the scheme was never proceeded with.

    Matthew Alexander,
    Honorary Remembrancer of Guildford.

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    January 21, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Jim Allen’s suggested tunnel would be about 7.5km long. The Hindhead tunnel is 1.8km long and cost some £350m. So roughly four times the length would cost about £1.4 billion. Would the benefits of having such a tunnel in any way justify expenditure of that amount of money? I guess not.

    A shorter two-lane southbound tunnel around 600 meters long under Bright Hill from Sydenham Road to Shalford Road would cost around £55m. I believe it could be justified in terms of benefits that would be gained by reducing traffic through the town centre and thus making Guildford more attractive to businesses and visitors.

  4. Bernard Parke Reply

    January 21, 2013 at 11:48 am

    We need a solution now!

    A tunnel would take a considerable time to build stretching into the realms of fantasy.

  5. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    January 22, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Unfortunately, there is no quick solution for the southbound traffic to the A281 due to the topography of the north-east area of Guildford. But the northbound traffic in the gyratory could be channelled through a widened Walnut Tree Close and, with a new bridge constructed over the river, taken to meet up with Woodbridge Road via Mary Road or Leas Road.

    This would allow an extra southbound lane in Onslow Street by reducing the northbound traffic to a single lane and thus ease the congestion a little but the long term solution is a tunnel similar to the one I’ve described in my earlier comments.

    Filling in the Debenhams subway was a mistake as the crossing is causing congestion at peak hours. It should either be reinstated, if possible, or a new one constructed close by.

    Such a subway would not need ramps, as the at-grade crossing would work in tandem. It could remain closed out of hours to minimise the risk from possible anti-social behaviour.

  6. Bernard Parke Reply

    January 22, 2013 at 10:21 am

    We shall not see any tunnelling in our life time if the planning and building of the Hindhead Tunnel is any measure of time.

    In the interim the town congestion will no doubt bring the town centre to complete grid lock.

    It certainly will not improve when the Waitrose build starts.

  7. David Ogilvie Reply

    January 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    I wrote a letter to the Surrey Advertiser that was printed on the 31st May 1996 proposing a tunnel from York Road to Shalford Road. It created some interest at the time. The tunnel portals already exist and there would be very little needed in the way of approach roads and no land take not already owned by the Borough Council. More recently in October 2011 I developed this idea to create a complete ring road around Guildford with a new bridge over the railway and the river thus removing traffic from the town centre and creating a pedestrian precinct from the station via the river to the High Street. This scheme is well developed and may be seen on the Guildford Vision Group web site. If anyone is interested I will be happy to email them a copy of this plan which is available at 1:2000 scale on a OS base map. The tunnel could be built within two years at a cost of around £50 million.

  8. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    January 29, 2013 at 8:54 am

    David Ogilvie’s scheme is an option that suggests a one-way ring to take traffic out of the town centre. However, it needs to be considered whether such a scheme is preferable, considering it involves a long detour for traffic, e.g. from Farnham Road to Portsmouth Road and Shalford Road. Also careful thought would need to be given as to how an accidental blockage would cope with this one-way system.

    I’ve suggested an option that reduces through traffic in phases and, in the long term, a tunnel could be constructed from Sydenham Road to Shalford Road under Bright Hill. It would be a shorter tunnel, about half of that David has suggested. You can view my ideas by directly accessing the link in Guildford Vision Group’s web site –

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      February 6, 2013 at 8:19 am

      Recently, I added two sketches to my website showing modifications to Onslow Street to create an extra southbound lane by reducing northbound traffic to one lane. This could be done if the northbound traffic is directed to Woodbridge Road via Walnut Tree Close and a new river bridge to connect with either Mary Road or Leas Road. The website showing all possible improvements to traffic, in Guildford not just in the town centre, could be viewed found by searching for ‘revamp Guildford gyratory’ and the sketches in its ‘LINKS’ section.

      All road users – traffic, pedestrians and cyclists should be treated justly. Guildford businesses will suffer if traffic is restricted in an attempt to unduly pedestrianise and beautify Guildford. Restricting traffic without any provision for alternative routes will be environmentally disastrous for Guildford. Councils may have been pushed too far down this road and therefore the solutions to the problems will need very carefully balanced approach.

  9. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    February 12, 2013 at 7:09 am

    I’m rather surprised that there were no comments from anyone on my suggestions to improve traffic flow in Onslow street and associated widening of north footway in Bridge Street that is so very desirable. Concern has been expressed by many of possible gridlock due to planning approval for Waitrose site in York Road but there seems to be no enthusiasm amongst the interested bodies such as residents associations in Guildford to either support or object to such suggestions!

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