European JV named preferred bidder for controversial Stonehenge tunnel

UK agency National Highways has named an Italian-Spanish-Austrian joint venture as preferred bidder for the controversial project to build a road tunnel bypass near Stonehenge in southern England.

The “More JV” comprises Italy’s Webuild (42.5% share), Spain’s FCC Construcción, and Austrian-headquartered BeMo Tunnelling. If the scheme goes ahead, the JV will undertake the £1.25bn (€1.5bn) contract to build an approximately 3km tunnel and main construction work for the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down project, conceived to cut congestion and reduce the audio and visual impact from traffic on the busy A303 nearby.

The UK government approved the scheme in 2020, but campaigners including historians, archaeologists and environmentalists launched a high court challenge to stop it, claiming it would damage many of the site’s artefacts. The court ruled in their favour in July last year.

However, the UK’s transport ministry continues to pursue the project and has been considering its options.

On the selection of the More JV, Derek Parody, National Highways’ project director for the scheme, said: “The contract will only become live once the Secretary of State has concluded the planning process.

“The announcement of a preferred bidder in no way pre-empts any decision, and once that is finalised, and should the Development Consent Order be granted, having a contractor in place will put us in the strongest possible position to deliver this transformational scheme and deliver the benefits we know it can.”

The proposed project includes building 13km dual carriageway, a twin tunnel at least 3.3km long following the existing A303 route but around 40-50m farther away from the henge itself, a new bypass to the north of the village of Winterbourne Stoke, and junctions with the A345 and A360 either side of the World Heritage Site. Work is estimated to take five years.

More JV has enlisted a design consortium involving Atkins, Jacobs and Spanish designer Sener.

In a statement, the JV said: “For the companies that are part the MORE JV – Webuild, FCC Construcción, and BeMo Tunnelling – this project is a clear example of the development of sustainable, innovative infrastructures that not only provide traffic solutions but also improve people’s quality of life.”

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