Transport and transport infrastructure is not an end in itself but serves a wider purpose to enable movement of people and goods. Transport facilitates, but also creates wider issues which include air pollution, noise and severance. Transport also needs to reflect changing societal patterns and changes in technology.
With some 21,000 inbound commuters to Southend and around 30,000 outward commuters, 12,500 of whom travel to London, and over 7 million day visitors each year1, Southend’s transport network is heavily utilised. There are also many other local movements.
Southend’s transport network reflects the geography and historical development of the area being based on an east-west axis. The A127 dual carriageway provides the strategic highway access to the Borough providing links to London and the M25. The A13 also runs east-west through the Borough. Two railway lines and ten stations serve the Borough. It also benefits from an extensive bus network with high frequency services along the A13 Passenger Transport Corridor.
The A13 experiences conflicts between serving local functions and acting as a link to the strategic network. As the only strategic highway route into and out of Southend, the A127 is the main highway access to the town. As a consequence the A127 gets congested at peak times and is heavily used by residents, commuters and visitors. Significant improvements to the A127 have been undertaken in recent years and further improvements along this corridor towards the M25 will be essential if projected housing and employment growth in Southend is to be accommodated. The A127 Bell Junction has been designated as an Air Quality Management Area and the Council’s Air Quality Action Plan seeks to tackle road transport related pollution and improve health outcomes.
The town offers considerable scope for improving sustainable transport. East-west cycle routes have been improved but links between the north and south of the Borough are limited. Designing in safe walking and cycling routes can assist with improving health and has benefits for reducing congestion and air pollution.
Improvements to the efficiency of car parking provision, including the town centre, are proposed as part of Southend Central Area Action Plan and Southend Borough-wide Parking and Access Strategy. Building upon these documents the Council will be undertaking an Access, Parking and Transport Strategy and reviewing its Local Transport Plan.
It will be critical that significant improvements are made to the transport network. Any urban extension or new settlement on the edge of the town would require new transport links such as an outer bypass for all travel modes and would need to integrate with the Borough’s existing transport routes. Further junction upgrades would also require consideration. If this option was taken forward then further work will be required to determine where such a route could be accommodated.
Southend international airport has flights to a number of destinations around the UK and across Europe. The Airport continues to grow, which will also attract related employment opportunities. This however has implications for surface access as well as noise and air quality impacts.
The Borough is located on the river Thames and there are opportunities to use the river for residents to access work in Kent and London and also for those living in Kent to river commute to Southend and south Essex for work and pleasure.
The Council’s Low Emissions Strategy (2018-2025) is a key component of its Air Quality Action Plan, and aims to reduce transport emissions, measure and report on traffic and air quality and support a shift to electric and low emission vehicles. The influence of new technologies could potentially have a significant impact on air quality and carbon dioxide emissions towards the end of the Plan period. There are currently 196 electric plugin or electric plug-in hybrid vehicles (EVs) (Jun 2018, 0.2% of registered vehicles) in the town. Improvements in the EV charging infrastructure will be required especially in areas where there is little or no off-street parking.
1 Census 2011 and Economic Impact of Tourism 2017 – Destination Research