On Monday morning I knew I was stood somewhere where I would never be able to stand again – the centre of the southbound section of the Hindhead Tunnel.
Four-and-a-half years in the making, on time and on budget, I can’t think of a piece of road that has been more eagerly awaited.
I have to admit I was rather excited at the prospect of getting a guided tour of the tunnel (ahead of yesterday’s official opening) as I’ve slowly watched it being created deep in the Surrey countryside.
I had to be at the building site at 9:15am prompt. My heart sank as, typically, a long, slow-moving queue of traffic loomed in front of me. How ironic that I was late for a trip down the new Hindhead Tunnel by delays at Hindhead!
The first thing that strikes you as you travel northbound is the lowering gradient. Then 300 yards in the tunnel’s gradient quickly increases and you notice the long, gradual left-hand curve.
Clever lighting allows your eyes to adjust to the sunlight as you emerge from the tunnel one-and-a-quarter miles later.
But watch your speed. This is the first UK tunnel fitted with average speed cameras!
Many bottlenecks have blighted the route to the south. The A34 had Newbury, the M3 had the Hockley Lights. Remember the amount of demonstrations about the building of those roads?
Well, there have been no such problems with the A3. With little or no protest, the new bypass has taken shape and by this weekend the town of Hindhead will finally fall quiet.
Yes it might be just another tunnel, but this one is truly exciting and I felt that when stood in the middle taking photographs of the empty entrance behind me.
How many times have you been stuck in traffic at Hindhead on your way to or from work or holiday? On a bleak, cold wet and windy winter’s night, you’ve stared at red tail-lights as far as the eye can see. For some light relief, we’ve all looked into the BMW showroom, picking out which model you’d have.
The Hindhead Tunnel will be a joybringer. I bet you get the same butterflies when you go through for the first time.
The tunnel opens - P12-13