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The Transport Action Network has some hopeful news for those opposed to the damage: “Boris Johnson has reportedly instructed his Cabinet to cull large “legacy projects and told them that everything is on the table, including ‘sacred cows’ and ‘pet projects’.” Nothing fits that description better than the Stonehenge short tunnel, a vote-catcher proposed two Prime Ministers ago and not needed for vote-catching by the current incumbent.

Indeed, it may well be calculated that Mr. Johnson risks world-wide reputational damage if it goes ahead: new destruction to a world-famous icon in the teeth of opposition by UNESCO is yet to fully register in the international conscience but may do so the moment Grant Shapps gives the go-ahead. “The British are going to dig up a mile of the Stonehenge landscape for approaches to a tunnel, surely not?”

Then there’s the cost: it’s been £1.7 or £1.8 billion for ages, and there’s no sign of an up-to-date figure. We can all work out why that is and everyone knows that, like all such projects, the cost will escalate vastly before the end, especially as it involves tunnelling in unpredictable phosphatic chalk.

But worst of all is that even on those costs it has “an unusually low benefit-cost ratio of just 29 pence benefit per £1 spent” and only if you include the highly implausible cultural heritage valuation study, does the BCR creep over the £1 mark to £1.08.” Highly implausible is putting it kindly! How do you cost the negative cultural cost of destroying millions of cubic feet of the upper levels of Europe’s most important prehistoric landscape?


January 2020

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