I have been talking to people recently about the new high-speed train we are planning to build. It will, depending on who you believe, either provide essential fast links between London and the North, particularly for business, at a time when travel by other means has become congested and when migration to the south has become an increasing problem, or it will cost taxpayers a vast amount of money and increase the noise pollution in beautiful open countryside, providing an additional train service which no one wants and no one will be able to afford. Whatever.
I am also conscious of the effects of the new A3 Hindhead tunnel that is just 18 months old. The official figures seem to show that traffic flow along the A3 is no different from before the tunnel. But these figures take no account of the hold-ups at Hindhead that plagued the road before the tunnel was opened. Yes, the traffic flow is the same, but it now flows without delay. The statistics also ignore the fact that about 25% of the traffic tried to avoid the Hindhead bottleneck by turning off the road before Hindhead, driving past my house and then onto the A3 again. Most of that traffic has now gone and the effect outside my house is certainly noticeable.
And that's not to mention the ease with which walkers can now cross the A3. The footpath runs right across the road and it was always tricky emerging onto a crowded 2-lane road and trying to cross. Now, the road has gone! I posted this pic recently. That's the old A3, as it is today, running round the valley.
But one has to remember that for every group of residents who welcome the advent of the quiet, safe diverted road through the tunnel, there is likely to be some who feel the opposite. There is a beautiful Elizabethan house near here on the edge of Hindhead. Here it is
and here it is from the other side.
When it was built, I imagine the owners loved its isolated position in the quiet rural town of Hindhead, away from the noise and dirt of the road, yet just a short carriage ride to the main stagecoach route to London and Portsmouth. The grounds boasted extensive woodland and a private drive off the road to the front door. But the tunnel access road has taken away much of that woodland and sliced a chunk too out of the hill on which the house once nestled.
So zoom out and here's the house today. It's now literally on the edge of Hindhead.