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Joy as Beaminster Tunnel work due to end by May
Beaminster residents have welcomed news that the tunnel road is to open in May a month ahead of schedule – but want to keep the pressure on to make sure it does.
And there is optimism that 2013 will be a better year for traders.
Restaurateur Mat Follas, of the Wild Garlic, said if the tunnel opens on schedule before the summer the town should be set for a good year in 2013.
He said: “I think the main thing is get it open before the summer really kicks in and then Beaminster is going to have a cracking year.
“I think the Olympics did us more damage than the tunnel did to be honest.
“Until the tunnel is fixed we will see a slight downturn of people because there is a perception that we are hard to get to whereas the reality is it is an extra five minutes.”
The county council has approved £2.24million for a soil stabilisation scheme to repair the tunnel and it is hoped the work will last for the next 150 years.
Motorists Rosemary Snell and Michael Rolfe were killed when a landslip hit the tunnel and road in the July, 2012 floods.
Broadwindsor district councillor Jacqui Sewell said it was very good news the tunnel was to open earlier than expected but she would maintain pressure on the county council to keep to its timetable.
She said: “It is for the benefit of the whole community to get it open as soon as possible so I am delighted it is scheduled to re-open in May. Coun Sewell paid tribute to the work done by Beaminster county councillor Rebecca Knox: “She has done a fantastic job and the funding is in place and it is fantastic it is on schedule to open in May.”
Town and district councillor Janet Page agreed and said: “The town did look busy over Christmas so the message has got through and I think there are some people who are shopping here who would have perhaps gone on to Crewkerne before.”
Resident Maggie Warnett, who lives on the Mosterton side of the tunnel, said: “We do feel that they are doing their best, they are pushing it ahead as fast as they can.”
Floods triggered mudslide that killed couple
A landslip closed Beaminster Tunnel on the evening of Saturday July 7, the day devastating floods hit West Dorset.
But it was only ten days later that the horrific truth emerged – the huge mudslide had crushed a car, killing its occupants Rosemary Snell and Michael Rolfe who were travelling home through the tunnel after having dinner in Beaminster.
The A3066 axis road from Bridport to south Somerset has been closed at the tunnel ever since as a result of fears that the surrounding land and potentially the tunnel structure are too unstable to guarantee its safety. The 345 feet long Horn Hill tunnel north of Beaminster was completed in 1832 and is Grade II-listed.
It is 20 feet high and 20 yards wide and when built was hailed an exceptional civil engineering achievement for its time, allowing trade traffic to head northwards to Bristol through the hill which is 650 feet above sea level.