A team of three European contractors has nabbed a $1.6-billion deal to design, build, and commission a controversial tunnel close to the prehistoric Stonehenge circle of monoliths in west England. Non-U.K. bidders also dominate three teams shortlisted for Britain's other major highway tunnel under the River Thames east of London.

The MORE joint venture winning the Stonehenge project includes Italy's Webuild S.p.A., Spain's FCC Construcción S.A. and Austria’s BeMo Tunnelling GmbH. A consortium of locally based SNC-Lavalin Inc. unit Atkins and Jacobs Ltd., with Spain’s SENER Grupo de Ingenieria SA. will design the work for the construction joint venture.

Subject to final government approval, the MORE joint venture will build, over five years, a 13-km section of the A303 highway that will carry traffic 50 m further away from Stonehenge than the current route. The highway will include at least 3.2 km of tunnel.

Project opponents unsuccessfully challenged the scheme by the government's National Highways, claiming the project would damage valuable archaeological sites. With a roughly 30.5-m diameter, the stone circle was erected around 4,500 years ago within an earthworks enclosure built some 500 years earlier.

The 4.25-km Lower Thames tunnel scheme in London is earlier in development than the A303, with National Highways inviting public comment on its proposal. The tunnel would be part of a 23-km highway intended to relieve traffic on the busy M25 River Thames crossing further upstream.

In April, National Highways shortlisted three teams to compete for the estimated $2.9-billion contract, using its competitive dialogue procedure.

Spain's Ferrovial and Dragados, Germany’s Hochtief and the French contractors Bouygues and Vinci are among the three teams. J Murphy & Sons Ltd. and BAM Nuttall Ltd. are the only U.K. contenders.