Plans to dual the A303 were shelved, along with building a tunnel under Stonehenge
Local businesses have highlighted their fears of traffic 'chaos' in Shepton Mallet because of planned road works.
A four mile stretch of the A303 will be closed both ways for five weeks near Mere which means eastbound traffic will be diverted into Shepton.
Westbound motorists will take the A350 to Shaftesbury and the B3081 to rejoin the A303 at Wincanton.
The road works include resurfacing, putting up safety barriers, painting road markings and installing cats eyes.
In addition to this, the highways team will also improve surface water drainage and renew signs.
Dave Sledge, project manager at the Highways Agency, said: "The A303 as people know is a very, very busy route and more importantly it carries some quite large vehicles at times.
"Any diversion we put in place has to cope with those large vehicles, but more importantly if you don't know the A303 it is important that the roads you are diverted onto are suitable for all vehicles to use."
The Highways Agency has spent nine months planning the road works, which were originally going to last 15 weeks.
Gordon Wright, owner of Wright Cars, a taxi firm in Shepton Mallet, still has his reservations.
"From what I can see, the traffic is going to run through Shepton Mallet and that is going to affect us quite a bit because the town does block up at certain times of the day anyway and with the extra volume of traffic coming through, it's going to be absolute chaos," said Gordon.
"If we do have any Heathrow/Gatwick trips we actually use that route ourselves and it's going to be a much higher volume of traffic.
"The A303 does take a high volume of traffic and if that is diverted through smaller roads, it's going to create chaos wherever it goes."
'Inefficient road network'
The Road Haulage Association believes a long-term approach is needed to improve the A303.
Mike Moore, area manager for the Midlands and Western regions, said: "They've [Highways Agency] made several statements about the work that needs to be done and we can't understand why they're spending the time and money just repairing. We come back to the point, this road needs upgrading for the 21st century."
His organisation has long campaigned for the A303 to be upgraded into a dual carriageway which he believes is still the main priority.
"We are still campaigning, we have a very inefficient road network which is not up to what we need, and this for all road users not just hauliers."
However, plans to dual the A303 have been shelved indefinitely.
They were part of SWARMMS [London to South West & South Wales Multi-Modal Study] in 2002 which involved building a tunnel underneath Stonehenge.
A subsequent part of this study also looked at ways to improve the route over the Blackdown Hills, either by dualling the A358 from Ilminster to Taunton or dualling the A303 over this stretch.
After the consultation results were published, the plan was shelved, and since then decision making powers were handed back to the regions after the abolishment of the South West Regional Assembly.
The organisation that replaced the SW Regional Assembly is South West Councils, which represents local councils, and the South West Regional Development Agency.
They now decide how to spend the region's central government allocation, by prioritising what needs improving first; plans to dual the A303 have again been shelved indefinitely.
Have your say: How urgent is the need to dual the A303, or are these planned repairs sufficient to cope with the levels of traffic on this main route? Fill in the form below.
Of course the A303 should have been up rated to at least dual carriageway status if not A303(M) Behind it is the unwillingness of a succession of governments of ALL parties to accept the need for good transport communication and get on with the job. Where road improvements have been done all traffic congestion in the surrounding area just vanishes. I quote the eastern ring road to Bristol, the Frome by pass, the Marshfield bypass, the A350 around Chippenham, the East Knoyle by pass and especially the southern section of the A34. etc.etc. Sadly the lentil eating Lib-Dems et al will claim that better roads create greater congestion. This is PROVED to be a falsehood by all the above success stories. The greatest scam of ALL IS THE BATHEASTON BY PASS - THE ROAD TO NOWHERE. To ease the congestion in London Road Bath a new road is needed to Trowbridge, Westbury Factory Estates and thence to the Warminster by pass (another success story!). From there on the A36 should be dual carriageway to the M27. The traffic in London Road Bath would then VANISH! No more congestion and no more health destroying pollution. Traffic must FLOW not be strangulated.
John Cupis, Timsbury
Forget the A303 and similar West Country roads. Instead dual the railway line again all the way from Salisbury to Exeter and re-open railway stations on existing lines such as Somerton and Langport. Problem solved.
As a resident of a village which, when diverted motorists are distracted, and speeding to make up lost journey time, and of course, the imminent construction of the Stonehenge visitors centre and all that will entail, I do feel that residents of rural areas dissected by the A303 are ignored by the urban policy makers. We also, locally face the closure of a "rat run" when a bridge is closed for several months, again, absolutely contrary to the opinions of the locals who have to use it to avoid the regular blockage of the 303.
Anon, Shrewton, Wiltshire
It is obvious to everyone that this road is a dogs-dinner and minor improvements are a waste of time. Everytime there is an accident on the single and three lane sections those in power should be held accountable. With the A303's traffic volume (the stonehenge section is a joke), it must be a dual carriageway from M3 to M5. I bet this road would have been improved if it were in Scotland!
Lawrence Spencer, Stoke-sub-Hamdon
This is causing absolute chaos on our minor roads in west and east knoyle. People are not following the diversion routes and are relying on satnavs to guide them round our narrow roads, if they drove sensibly and according to the type of windy/narrow roads we have, locals here would not have a problem, but they come off the A303 at 60 to 70 mph and still continue to drive at these speeds along our narrow country lanes, which now look like mud tracks and all the banks are all chewed up. Will the contractors or wiltshire council be repairing the damage to our minor roads when all this is finished. I very very very much doubt it!!! PS A major accident is just waiting to happen, but i hope i'm wrong.
Jason Russell, East Knoyle, Wiltshire
I use the A303 to commute on a daily basis to Yeovil. This road closure has added about 20 minutes to each leg of my journey, but would have be far worse if I followed the diversion signs, especially east bound. It was easily misleading and made you use the west bound carriage, to add to further confusion and stress. It's disgraceful to have such appalling diversion signs for such a major repair work on a very important stretch of A303.
Dr Sesha Pramodh, Basingstoke
The A303 repairs being carried out at the moment will be sufficient. Upgrading a road or motorway does not necessarily mean this will ease road traffic problems. The best example is the M25, which has had more lanes added over the recent years. This in turn has attracted even more traffic, more accidents, more chaos. The obvious answer for business traffic is to upgrade the M4 and M5, and leave the A303 for the less urgent holiday traffic.
Vic Ser, Mere
Signage from Wells woefully inadequate. As I approached the A303 via Evercreech and Bruton I followed the diversion signs (diamonds?) and 1 hour 10 minutes after I left Cannards Grave roundabout. I was back there so returned home having missed a business meeting. Not very happy. This isn't a new diversion and yet still they have not got adequate signs up.
I know repairs are important but why both sides at the same time?
Going West we found the diversion easy to follow, it was well sign posted. Going East was a complete nightmare. The signs were very confusing and we ended up going wrong and about 9 miles out of our way. I hope it's finished by Easter.
Denise Moore, Basildon, Essex
I travelled up to work on the 15th. this is the worst diversion I have ever seen, roads are completely unsuitable eastbound to hampshire, it is a disgrace. haven't tried to go westbound but from the sounds of it going west is just as bad.
should have closed one side for two weeks then the other for two weeks later, at least then one way is always clear. Local authorites should be let go for this huge inconvienience.
Travelled from Surrey to Cornwall and back this weekend. Journey time extended half an hour going west and an hour going east. Signs were perfectly clear, follow yellow box going west and yellow diamond going east. Simple. I know it's a nuisance but seems to be unavoidable.
Val Stone, Guildford, Surrey
What a complete and utter shambles! What a disaster! I suggest that those involved with the diversion signs get out there in a car and attempt to follow them to see for themselves what chaos they are causing. How can this have been allowed to happen?
The A303 is a nightmare road for all users and its upgrading desperately needs some joined-up thinking.
Jane Palfrey, Farnham, Surrey
This road closure is starting to cause concern. Driving to work, Travel time is taking twice as long on the diverted and other roads (including A30) (not diversion road) People are using roads they wouldn't usually and overtaking and slow conditions become dangerous. Extra lorries on A30 slowing things right down. The quality of the roads is horrific and the A350 just outside of Shaftesbury is breaking up so badly that people are swerving to avoid it and by the looks of it contents of vehicles are left on the side of the road due to near misses. Diversion signs, unless you live locally you wouldn't understand them anyway & what is the point in that. PLEASE someone listen as I am concerned that there will be serious consequences!
Rebecca Davies, Stalbridge, Dorset
I travelled East on A303 last Monday and back West on Wednesday. The diversion signs were absolutely APPALLING!! Put about 2 hours on my journey on both occasions. Still feel stressed 4 days later!! Will be complaining!
There are no signs for the A303 detour. Everyone I know who has been detoured has got lost. Why have no signs been put up? When I was lost and asked at a garage how to get back onto the A303 the man at the garage said I was the fiftieth person that day to have asked. It is pathetic that the Highways Agency cannot manage this simplest of tasks. If they were fined £50 for each motorist misdirected out of their own wages it might concentrate their minds a little bit. Motorists are endlessly fined for their mistakes, so why not them?
Cecilia Moynahan, Crewkerne, Somerset
I read with disgust, that the Highways Agency (HA) will not even consider a dual carriageway for the remaining single-tack sections of the A303 until 2019. What a complete wasted opportunity. I also see that that for 'environmental' reasons, my car tax is to rise from £215 to £245 this year. Why isn't a higher proportion of MY tax being used to fund an upgrade to this frustrating to use (in summer) and sometimes dangerous main East-West route? Its an outrage that the motorist is always seen as the 'green villian' and yet each successive Government is quite happy to take our money (in car tax) and waste it on non-car related projects. Our West country MPs should be making louder noises about getting this atrocious road sorted out.
Paul McGinn, Crewkerne
As another traveller explained the Westbound diversion is a joke. Taken off at Mere to go back down the A303 the other way for several miles without clear instructions. If you ignore the signs and go through Mere you end up following the signs again (?!) for the the long and winding route north and then back to the A36 south leading back to the A303 Westbound. Come on Highways Agency your the signs and routing are terrible.
Andy Vittles, Yeovil
My Grandson left Westward Ho' at 12.30 on Wednesday 18th Feb and eventually arrived home at Thames Ditton Surrey at 8 o'clock the diversion signs were a disgrace and lead him in completely the wrong direction and eventually into Bath an unknown area to him, this was a very worrying time for me and his family as he is 18 years old. Even very experienced drivers would have found this very daunting.
Carole Cross, Westward Ho' Devon
My wife & I had to travel to London and back yesterday using the A303. The signage for the diversions was, in both directions, appalling. In places it was in fact non-existent. Surely for such a major diversion as this the Highways Agency should have used a large number of bespoke fluorescent signs reading "A303 diversion" with attendant direction arrows rather than the tiny yellow signs with symbols on them. The current signs are totally inadequate and pose a real danger to the locals and the travelling public alike.
The diversion signs as you leave the 303 at mere are a disgrace. You come off the 303 east bound then get directed back on west bound. your immediate thought is that the signs have been moved as it seems daft to back down the same road you've just come up! From that point onwards not one helpful sign. When you think how busy the 303 is you would think the highways department would have given this more though. very poor service.
Shaun Hendy, Wellington
The A303 has been overdue for upgrading for decades. The single carriageway stretches are quite simply killing grounds - just ask the local emergency services for their records. The present closure has to be the worst organised, worst publicised and worst signposted exercise I've seen in more than 40 years of driving. Utter chaos, profound incompetence, and all avoidable.
Alec Pringle, Mere, Wiltshire
On the first day of the closure I took my kids for a cycle ride along our normally quietish roads. Within 5 minutes I had to make a 999 call as an HGV lorry didn't even see me or my kids on our bikes and nearly ran us off the road. I ventured onto the A303 Mere Bypass where there is no traffic at the moment (Open to traffic but no access for a 2 mile stretch)and then was informed it could be dangerous cycle along the A303... They have no clue.. It was the safest place to cycle. There was no traffic on that part of the road...
Bob Parsons, Mere, Wiltshire
I travelled this route yesterday on the way down to Cornwall and was appalled by the poor signage on the diversions. Both East and West bound I added unnecessary hours and miles to an already long and tiring journey.
Ruth Beer, Oxford
I encountered this A303 diversion last night returning to Berkshire from the Somerton area. In places the diversion signs were unclear and in fact I saw some drivers having to make dangerous u turns when they missed a turning. Quite unprecedented in my experience and unacceptable having to travel so far off route for a road works diversion.
Rod Ashworth, Datchet, Berkshire
Another shambles as a further extension of muddled, piecemeal approach of the past 40 years that I have been using the A303.
I feel nothing but exasperation for the local communities and road-users alike. It needs gripping by central government NOW as an essential arterial trunk route to the West Country with commerce, tourism and leisure dependent on it. Patchwork or local endeavours just transfer difficulties from one spot to another without improving either overall or local situations.
D Durston, Fareham, Hants
HGVs and large coaches ignoring the signposted diversion and driving along entirely unsuitable B roads and lanes in the area, possibly aided by their satnavs. No sign of any enforcement from Highways Agency or Police. Contractors appear unwilling to stop or redirect drivers of these vehicles as they pass by the weight limit signs that they've put up to prevent this. Only a matter of time before there will be an accident. Obviously we're in for a month or two of driver/satnav stupidity in the area!
Graham, Gillingham Dorset
I have been a user of the A303 for more than 40 years and have experience of using it before the various dual carriageway schemes were put in place.
It has always been a mystery to me why the entire A303 was not turned into dual carriageway years ago. The jams in summer and at peak times are horrendous, the relatively recent "dualling" of some sections simply allow faster vehicles to get to the next "jam" quicker and increase frustration with the increased risk of accidents.
The work around Mere has been going on for months and, even when it's completed we will still be left with a single carriageway. If the work to "dual" the sections had been approved it would have been possible to build another carriageway as a stand alone construction and then link it up as a final act with minimal effect on the traffic. I have seen this approach adopted in other parts of the country and it seemed to work very well.
We have been able to waste billions of pounds on the 2012 Olympics which will be of little use to ordinary people once the games are over. It seems to me that the government needs to put the UK taxpayer first before seeking glory projects to make themselves feel good against their foreign peers.
Martin Batchelor, Templecombe, Somerset
I am the Conservative Prospective MP for Yeovil and am appalled at the catalogue of crashes we have had this Winter -some are on the new diversion and others are not. We have started a campaign to get the next Government to do something about this.
Kevin Davis, Conservative PPC, Yeovil
Having recently returned from living in the South West of France, I was amazed how efficiently and quickly the French manage to put in a business/retail park and divert the road, with a roundabout, kerbs borders all with plants flowers and the car parks are generous and pleasing to look at. The whole project took less than 3 months to complete and their there was no detours or inconvenience to the traffic.all this in a rural area. Perhaps they worked at night as well?.Mind you there is NO 'elf n safety' in France. Ah,that'll be it then!.The A303 works will take 5/6 weeks, so we are told, as I travel on this and the A34 to Bedford/Buckingham regularly, it's going to add a lot of miles and cost, let alone the co2 emissions. Finally, I wonder whether any of the government 'officials' or agencies have visited France to see for themselves how it should be done?.And by the way,in case you did not know, there's no road fund licence to pay and the equivalent of the MOT, only every two years, 23 euros! How do they do it??.Bon journey.
P R Lenthall, Chard, Somerset
Mike Bagness from Chard has got it dead to rights! One year's income from the lorry/car/patrol tax would pay to 'dual' the A303 and leave some over for the green issues involved.
E. Hacket, Crewkerne, Somerset.
Seeing the chaos everyday especially at weekends during holiday periods at the Countess it's about time the Government got off its backside and do something about the nightmare .. green policy what green policy .. if you think by clogging up half the west country with thousands of cars polluting the atmosphere in the avoidable snarl up is doing your carbon footprint any good think again .. just do something sensible for once.
Rob Clarke, Enford, Wiltshire
The diversion signs are very very unclear and added extra miles to our journey especially when we got confused with all the signs also added a 2 hours to our journey. Not happy at all will be putting a complaint in.
Much of the A303 has relatively flat, undeveloped land on one or both sides. Thus providing a second carriageway would be a 'piece of cake', be very 'cost effective' and bring un-imaginable benefit to the few villages and hamlets along the way. There is an election coming - the population of the West Country should make their future MPs know that a major up-grade for the A303 is an absolute must -ACTION THIS DAY.
Peter Monk, Banbury, Oxon
I have used the A303 for more than 40 years (since before the M3)and it is not just a case of it needing an upgrade now; it should have been done 30 or so years ago when the M3 and the A303 dual carriageway to Amesbury were built. Odd bits of dual carriageway here and there do nothing to improve traffic flows; it just causes long tailbacks and accidents when the road becomes a single carriage way again. I suspect that that was the reason the Ilminster by-pass was built as a single carriageway even though it is relatively recent. It is no good saying people should use the M4/M5, it is not a routing that suites everybody without increasing journey lengths unreasonably, and the summer week-end traffic that clogs up the Devon, Somerset and Dorset sections are a major inconvenience to local residents in those areas. This is a major trunk route, whether we like it or not, and this is a road project that needs central government funding and planning, not left to a consortium of local authorities who will never reach a consensus and will procrastinate for the next 30 years. The A303 needs upgrading and it needs to be done now.
Mike Bagness, Chard, Somerset
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