Striking new images released by National Highways give a bird’s eye view of the new Sparkford to Ilchester upgrade starting to emerge in Somerset.
Two years on since work started, the progress being made on the scheme between Sparkford and Ilchester, which will tackle congestion, improve safety and help support increased economic prosperity in the Somerset and the South West, is clear in these new aerial pictures.
The project has already hit several milestones throughout the build and will involve finishing off the new road and linking it in with the existing A303 as it nears completion next year.
Some key achievements over the last two years include:
- Creating five new attenuation ponds to help with drainage on the scheme
- Installing the Steart Hill and Hazlegrove bridge decks – weighing a combined 1,673 tonnes – the same as 137 double decker buses
- Laying 12.5km/over 7.5 miles of drainage piping to date
- Installing the Hazlegrove underpass, designed to connect the communities of Camel Hill with Sparkford and Queen Camel
- Installing more than 300 bird, bat, dormouse and owl boxes, to support wildlife relocation during the construction phase
- Completing 10 archaeological digs
As part of National Highways’ commitment to the local area, the Government-owned company has also invested more than £21,000 in community projects through its social value fund, helping to leave a lasting legacy on the community, including:
- New cricket nets for Babcary Cricket Club
- Refurbishing the guide posts at Martson Magna
- New equipment at Queen Camel playing fields
Siân Hopkins, Senior Project Manager for National Highways, said: “The A303 is a vital scheme for the South West and we have pushed ahead on this much-needed scheme, competing work so far with minimal disruption to the travelling public and local residents.
“We’re also extremely proud of the work we have done in the community, committing thousands to projects that will help leave a positive legacy in the area.
“The upgrade will mean smoother, safer and more reliable journeys for drivers and we will build on the progress already made to deliver this new stretch of road as soon as we can.”
Despite some challenges along the way, including the wettest July on record which caused widespread flooding in the area and long periods of bad weather in November and March, National Highways has been making steady progress and the road has started to take shape.
The team at National Highways is working hard to deliver this important road improvement, while trying to minimise disruption to users of the A303.
Although initially due to open in March 2024, that will now be moving to Winter 2024/2025.
Siân added: “Unfortunately, the scheme has been delayed, not only due to significant periods of bad weather, but also the discovery of protected species on the site. This has caused delays in site clearance, earthworks and other activities, over the past two years.
“We apologise for the delay but can reassure you we are working hard to open the road as quicky as possible and as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
To finish the scheme over the next year, National Highways will:
- Complete the six crossovers to tie in the new road to the existing A303
- Finish the Steart Hill bridge and Hazlegrove underpass
- Connect the local road network to the new road
The A303 Sparkford to Ilchester upgrade will provide a high-quality three-mile dual carriageway link on the A303 in Somerset, including new and replacement slip roads, junctions and road bridges to replace existing junctions and direct access roads.
The new dualled section will start east of Podimore Roundabout, follow the alignment of the existing A303 to Downhead, and then move north of the existing A303 single carriageway, allowing the existing road to be kept for use as a local road in this section.
The route will rise up West Camel Hill before crossing over the existing A303 at the junction with Steart Hill/Howell Hill and meet up with the existing road again between Vale Farm and the Ministry of Defence signal station at Eyewell/Traits Land.
The final section of the route bypasses the existing Hazlegrove Roundabout to the north through the Registered Park and Garden associated with Hazlegrove House, before tying into the existing A303 Sparkford Bypass.
Once completed, the route will make this section of the A303 safer for all users, while protecting the environment by minimising the impact on the surrounding landscape.
The £155m scheme between Sparkford and Ilchester will not only promote economic growth in this area of Somerset, but it will also tackle a long-standing bottleneck, reduce journey times to the South West and improve traffic flows in the area at peak times and during peak seasons.
On an average day, the A303 between Sparkford and Ilchester carries 23,500 vehicles but numbers increase significantly in the summer, particularly at weekends, making journeys unreliable and unpredictable.
In delivering the scheme, National Highways is aiming to:
- Improve the capacity of the road to reduce delays and queues that occur during peak hours and at key times of the year, such as the height of summer
- Support economic growth, facilitating growth in jobs and housing by providing a free-flowing and reliable connection between the South East and the South West
- Make the road safer, by providing additional capacity and reducing driver stress. We’ll make routes safer for pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders in the area
- Protect the environment and look for opportunities to improve it, minimising any unnecessary impact of the scheme on the surrounding natural and historic environment and landscape
- Work with local communities to reduce the impact of the road on a sense of community severance and look for ways to improve local people’s quality of life
- Make journey times more reliable and resilient, by providing more capacity it will become easier to manage traffic when incidents occur
National Highways is working with its delivery partner, Galliford Try, to construct the scheme. With construction now into its third year, more information about the scheme and the construction process can be found on National Highways’ website, by visiting https://nationalhighways.co.uk/our-roads/south-west/a303-sparkford-to-ilchester/ .