Frustration for motorists over Hindhead Tunnel closures

CLOSURES ROW The Hindhead Tunnel
CLOSURES ROW The Hindhead Tunnel
Bar staff Matt Shaw and Megan McEnroe at Drift on Hayling Island

Old boathouse offers cocktails with a twist and views over the sea

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DRIVER Richard Coates has spoken of his anger over closures to the Hindhead Tunnel.

The fire risk assessor, who commutes across the country, is demanding answers following a series of closures to the tunnel over the last year. The four-mile dual carriageway stretch of the A3 which includes the tunnel opened in July 2011 at a cost of £371m.

The Highways Agency confirmed the tunnel had been closed 89 times since it opened, citing maintenance and upgrades as the reasons.

But Mr Coates, 69, of Brights Lane, Hayling Island, said: ‘They were closing it every weekend.

‘The question is why? It’s a new tunnel and other tunnels in the UK only close every six months for routine maintenance.

‘It just does not make sense with the amount of money that was spent on it.’

He added: ‘Why is the Hindhead Tunnel closed so frequently when much older tunnels such as Dartford, Tyne/Tees, Merseyside, need only periodic maintenance?’

Mr Coates, a former firefighter in Portsmouth, is also frustrated at the diversion routes, which he says are confusing and can lead to drivers getting lost, especially when it’s dark.

He said: ‘You have got 40 minutes making diversions through small villages.

‘If the signage is not there, you are literally coming off and getting lost.’

Mr Coates has written to the Highways Agency and his MP David Willetts.

Officials at the agency told The News the majority of the full closures were to resolve an issue with the ‘resilience of the tunnel’s power supply’.

The work requires completely powering down the tunnel.

A spokesman said this was a ‘one-off project’ and will mean fewer closures are needed.

He added: ‘We are aware of the inconvenience that closing the tunnel causes to drivers and we plan any closures to take place overnight, when traffic flows are lowest, to minimise disruption.’

He said the diversion route is clearly signposted along the A31 and A325.