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Things rarely turn out as forecast. The management of Stonehenge is evidence. Anyone seen the land trains lately? Or been told how much money was lost? Now the Telegraph’s travel article has highlighted how pro-short tunnel dialogue is coming from an organisation that is hopeless at anticipating consequences. For example:

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, would be wise to divert his attention and money to the visitor centre first …. Don’t even think about going unless you’re prepared to queue for a long time.

It wasn’t the sight of the £50.20 walk-up family ticket price that did it, shortage of shuttle buses back from the gnarly stones themselves, or the naff bluestone gift bracelets that marred our experience, it was the toilet queues. 50-minute wait anyone? Horrible history indeed. It was a hot day and as we approached it was obvious that all wasn’t quite right when we saw a few people using the bushes directly outside the visitor centre for a quick toilet break.

Seeing the stones for the first time you can really see why the likes of Sir Tony Robinson, the Time Team presenter, has described the new tunnel as a “most brutal intrusion” – anything that would put this majestic open-air temple at risk doesn’t seem worth it.

It wasn’t getting any better ….. As we waited for a shuttle bus to take us back to the visitor centre there was a long, snaking queue, a distinct lack of buses and staff, and lots of tempers beginning fray as people weighed up whether to wait it out or take the long walk back. We were still there 25 minutes later.

Back at the visitor centre… we arrived to an ancient British scene: the toilet queue. Here, there was no information as to why a whole toilet block had been closed, resulting in a queue of around 80 people and a wait of nearly an hour… and the best we could get from the scant ‘customer services’ was that “they were aware of the situation” and it was “under control”, which didn’t extend to verifying if the toilet paper had run out. It had.

I imagined the man hours it had taken to create Stonehenge, I tried to be philosophical. All built with tools of just stone, wood and bone. That must have taken some organisation, some cooperation – a history lesson for the current owners and wannabe tunnel builders.

Contrast that with “opening day” when English Heritage claimed the Visitor Centre was “fit for purpose” and that “in high season a shuttle should be heading down the road every four minutes.” For avoidance of doubt, not a penny of the (probable) 2 billion pound tunnel cost is aimed at solving any of the above problems and no-one is claiming it will. Better to spend one thousandth of it on rectifying the current visitor experience.


October 2018
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