Beaminster Tunnel soil pinning repair works begin

Rosemary Snell -
Image caption Rosemary Snell died with Michael Rolfe

Repair work to a road tunnel in Dorset where two people were killed in a landslip has started.

Rosemary Snell and Michael Rolfe, from Somerset, died when their car was buried at Beaminster Tunnel in July.

The preliminary work will include fencing the area and clearing vegetation.

In January a drainage system will be introduced to the site and soil will be stabilised with about 1,000 nails, each measuring up to 12 metres (39ft).

The portal arches at each end of the A3066 tunnel will also be strengthened and the approach walls will be anchored into the slopes with nails.

Councillor Rebecca Knox, from Dorset County Council, which approved the works on 7 November, said the site had experienced another landslip in recent heavy rain.

She added the local community needed the road, which has been closed since 7 July, "opened up as soon as possible".

An engineers' report said soil pinning would stabilise slopes and "reduce the likelihood of future slips".

Image caption The tunnel repair works have a life expectancy of 120 years

A permanent concrete hood extension, which would have cost an estimated £1.8m, emerged as the public's preferred option at a public meeting in Beaminster on 18 October.

However, there was concern the hood extension would not withstand a major landslip and any debris falling on to the road as a result of smaller landslides would still need to be cleared.

The repair works, which are expected to take 20 weeks to complete, have a life expectancy of 120 years.

A public meeting will be held on Thursday at Beaminster's public meeting hall to discuss the progress of the project to reopen the tunnel.

Dorset County Council approached the Department for Transport for a special grant towards the cost of the repair work but this has been turned down.

Transport Minister Norman Baker said the council had already received £44m in highways maintenance funding over the spending review period to 2014/15.

In addition, he said the council had also been allocated more than £2.7m in March last year to deal with damage caused to roads by "severe winter weather" in 2010.

Ms Snell, 67, and Mr Rolfe, 72, went missing on 7 July but it was not until nine days later that Avon and Somerset Police alerted colleagues in Dorset that the couple had been traced to the Beaminster area.

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