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Landslide tunnel may be extended
BEAMINSTER Tunnel may be extended in a bid to make the route safer.
Urgent exploration work is under way to get the tunnel re-opened following the tragedy in which two people died last month.
Engineers are working to find the best option to get the closed stretch of the A3066 re-opened following the landslide during severe flooding in Dorset.
Dorset County Council workers are considering several options, including extending the tunnel temporarily or permanently.
The local community was left in shock after a car with a couple inside was found 10 days after the tunnel was sealed off because of the landslide.
Somerset residents Rosemary Snell and Michael Rolfe died when tonnes of rubble fell on their car as they passed through the tunnel following a meal out in Beaminster.
Miles Butler, the council’s director for environment, said all options have to be carefully considered.
He said: “While I understand that local people want a quick solution, we need to make sure that we carefully consider the alternatives.
“This requires preliminary work which is now under way.
“We have a good relationship with our consultants who will provide the information we need as soon as they can.”
Highway workers will drill 25 metre boreholes around the tunnel to find the best way of getting the route open again quickly.
A technique called ‘soil nailing’ will be used to stabilise the hillside as a long-term solution if the underlying ground is appropriate The stabilisation work would take several months and a temporary shield which would extend the tunnel is being explored urgently.
The temporary shield would have to rest on the existing entrance side walls which may not be strong enough. The structure of the hillside will be measured to see if the stabilisation option would work.
Some residents have called for the tunnel, which was opened in 1833, to be demolished and replaced by a cutting through the hillside or a new road round it.
These options would depend on planning permissions and funding applications which would take several years for agreement.
Beaminster traders mounted a campaign to get the message across that they are open for business after an emergency diversion was put in place around the tunnel, taking traffic away from the town.
The diversion was altered and vehicles now come out into the town centre.
People will be kept up-to-date with the project through meetings, regular updates to parish, town and district councils and via dorsetforyou.com/beaminstertunnel.
The engineers’ report on the tunnel will be available by the end of September.