If, like me, you have driven back and forth to London from Portsmouth on the A3 prior to 2011, you will have realised the pure joy of bypassing The Devil’s Punchbowl and the mind-numbing traffic queues at Hindhead crossroads.
The 29th July 2011 could not have come quickly enough for me and I even visited the A3 viewing platform on the Devil’s Punchbowl to see the cars driving in and out of the north portal.
The tunnel, the most ambitious tunnelling project since the Channel Tunnel, is the longest non-esturial road tunnel in the UK and is built under The Devil’s Punchbowl, an area of scientific interest. It is 1,830 m (1.14 miles) long and replaced the last remaining stretch of single lane carriageway on the 109 km (69 mile) A3 London to Portsmouth Road.
What’s even more astounding to me is that the developers worked closely with the National Trust and this old, twisting road of concrete has been returned to nature and peace has returned to the inhabitants of Hindhead.
I recently even walked down the even older Portsmouth to London road which was itself replaced by the A3 … it is now the main means of access to The Devil’s Punchbowl. It was once one of the most dangerous parts of the road – the haunt of highwaymen and footpads. There has been a route from Portsmouth to London since Tudor Times due to the significance of the Naval Dockyard.
All in all, an outstanding piece of engineering which has had a great impact on my life and for anyone regularly driving on the A3 up to London. It has also returned The Devil’s Punchbowl and the Hindhead Commons back to the people. Rather brilliant solution all around.
Contributor and photographer: Sue Lowry
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