English Heritage tries to mitigate delays at revamped tourist honeypot
English Heritage (EH) has introduced an exclusive groups-only shuttle service at Stonehenge on a trial basis. It follows criticism about the long delays experienced by groups and the negative impact the systems implemented since the opening of the new visitor centre have had on long-established and popular coaching itineraries.
EH said the ‘fast-track bus service’ will take pre-booked groups of 11 or more from the visitor centre to the Stone Circle from a dedicated groups-only point, by-passing the normal ticket entrance and shuttle embarkation platform used by other visitors. Currently operated by buses able to carry 49 passengers, larger groups will be accommodated in two vehicles.
Coaches arriving at Stonehenge will continue to use the 30-bay coach park. Once tour leaders have validated tickets and collected visit stickers and audio guides from the group reception building, groups will then walk to the visitor centre. They can use the toilet facilities, before re-assembling in the forecourt to move directly to the new under-cover group embarkation waiting point at the side of the building.
To return from the Stones, groups will join the first available shuttle vehicle or bus back to the visitor centre, where they can browse in the spacious shop, enjoy the acclaimed exhibition, pick up refreshments in the café – and watch the village of Neolithic huts being built, which are due for completion in late Spring.
“We hope the trial is a positive step towards providing a more seamless experience for groups visiting Stonehenge – especially at busy times when the number of individual visitors puts greater demands on the shuttle service. By providing a dedicated service for groups we aim to manage their visit better, keep queues to a minimum and give them more time to enjoy the new facilities now available. While the trial is underway, we will continue to update and adapt our operational plans to ensure the optimum experience for all our visitors,” said Emma Peters, English Heritage Marketing Manager, Stonehenge/Old Sarum and National Travel Trade.