LONDON, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- A road tunnel beneath Britain's famous Stonehenge landmark was announced Tuesday as part of a 2.1 billion-U.S. dollar plan to cure a major tourist route that faces regular gridlock.
The Stonehenge tunnel will remove the traffic blight on local communities and reconnect two halves of the 2,630 hectare World Heritage site which is currently split by the road, say government officials.
The 2.9 km tunnel will remove the sight and sound of traffic from the Stonehenge landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site visited by over a million people a year, add the officials. It will also ensure traffic headlights do not interfere with annual Solstice gatherings at the landmark site.
In a joint statement, Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage, said the route will ensure the winter solstice alignment will be unspoilt by lights and traffic from the road.
But campaigners called for a major re-think, warning the road scheme could threaten Stonehenge's place on the list of World Heritage Sites.
Celebrity historian Tony Robinson described the project to local media as the most brutal intrusion ever into the Stone Age landscape.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced details of the scheme along the A303 main road, as a key part of a South West expressway and will include the new tunnel.
"Linking the M3 in the south-east and the M5 in the south-west, the expressway will upgrade this key route and improve journey times for millions of people," said a spokesperson for the Department for Transport (DfT).
It will support economic growth and tourism in an area where congestion and slow journeys have long had a negative impact on the region's economy.
Grayling said: "This major investment in the south-west will provide a huge boost for the region and unlock growth in the tourism industry."
He said the scheme will also support 120,000 extra jobs and 100,000 new homes across the region.
Highways England chief executive Jim O'Sullivan said: "This scheme will enhance, protect and restore tranquility to one of the UK's most iconic landscapes."
The agency said its original plans had been modified after listening to heritage groups, archaeologists, historians and engineers. This has included moving the position of one of the tunnel entrances to avoid conflicting with the solstice alignment.
"The route ensures the Stonehenge World Heritage site will be protected and enhanced for people from across the world to enjoy," said the DfT.
Secretary of State for Culture, Karen Bradley said: "Stonehenge has captured the imagination of people around the world for centuries and is a site of global importance. With over 1 million visitors a year it is one of the jewels in the UK's crown and it is important that we preserve it for generations to come. This investment will help make the visitor experience much more enjoyable."