Transport in Southend is strongly impacted by the geography of the town. Situated on a peninsula the town is only accessible from the west. The Thames Estuary provides a barrier to the south and the east though it does offer opportunities for river transport (Map 13).
Map 13: Southend Context
Southend is well connected primarily by the A127 and A13 and the two railway lines to London (Fenchurch Street and Liverpool Street). However, longer journeys are funneled westwards to the A130, M11, M25 and London. These wider strategic networks are outside the remit of this New Local Plan but provide context on the transport challenge facing the Borough.
Within Southend there are issues with congestion at key junctions, particularly along the A127 and A13, and around the Town Centre and on Sutton Road. The Borough has a number of major bus routes that are all impacted by traffic congestion and a lack of priority measures. There are a number of cycle routes but there are gaps in this provision, with limited north-south cycleways and a lack of an overall network.
Tourism is an important part of the Borough’s economy, though this is highly seasonal. The result is that transport issues like congestion and overcrowding are particularly severe on a few key days. The Southend Central Area Action Plan (2018) included a number of measures to help address seasonal peaks in parking demand in the Central Seafront Area and Town Centre and the Council has implemented a new Parking Charges Strategy in 2021 to help manage parking more effectively. The Tourism Strategy going forward will support Southend as an all year round resort and staycation destination to level out seasonal peaks.
Southend Airport has been expanding rapidly with over 2 million passengers in 2019 and is capable under existing permissions to achieve 6 – 8 million passenger per annum depending on aircraft sizes. There remains a commitment to improving the use of public transport to get to and from the airport and thereby mitigate impacts on the road network.
Improvements to the Transport and Access Network
The Southend Local Transport Plan identified interventions required to deliver existing growth targets to 2021 as set out in the Core Strategy (2007) (6,500 homes, 13,000 jobs, plus impact of airport) and the Council has delivered a package of schemes, predominantly on the A127 Corridor and within the Town Centre. The schemes are listed in Table 19. However, the effects of the pandemic have hit the aviation industry hard and this is likely to push any further expansion for some time, coupled with any Government restrictions arising from the Climate Change agenda.
Table 19 – Completed or under investigation transport schemes
A127 Progress Road Junction Improvement
Completed. Funding bid for further improvements made. Awaiting decision
A127 Cuckoo Corner Junction Improvement
A127 / A1015 Kent Elms Junction Improvement
A127 The Bell Junction Improvement
|Under construction. Due for completion 2021|
|Southend Central Area Transport Schemes||East Street and Victoria Avenue in design. Victoria Avenue/Carnarvon Road/Great Eastern Avenue/Victoria Avenue Service Road/Public Realm improvements – Completed. London Road – Partially complete remainder in construction|
|A127 / A13 Victoria Gateway Improvements||Completed|
|A127 / B1013 Tesco Junction Improvement||Completed|
|City Beach Phase 1||Completed|
|Pier Hill Improvements||Completed|
|Better Buses Fund||Completed|
|South Essex Active Travel Fund||Completed|
|Local Sustainable Transport Fund||Completed|
|Better Queensway||Recent Planning Permission|
|Improved Car Park Signage and Guidance Systems||In progress|
|Car Parking in the Town Centre and Central Seafront||In progress|
Work has been commissioned by the Association of South Essex Authorities (ASELA) on Transport issues. This examines the adequacy of the existing
transport networks in meeting needs for movement. This identified three different “clusters” of centres which have functional links with each other. Southend is included within two of the clusters. Some of the links within and between towns are good (such as parts of the towns close to the rail corridors and along the A127). However, there are substantial gaps in north-south linkages by all modes and some areas are especially hard to access by public transport, e.g. employment and retail sites along the A127 and residential areas. The Study looks at how the different centres of South Essex could act as transport hubs with improved linkages between them. Ways of addressing this include developing strategic movement corridors such as Rapid Transit, incorporating segregated sections and development of enhanced transport hubs.
The concept has still to be developed in detail. For Southend, a new neighbourhood on the administrative boundary with Rochford district offers the potential to include a rapid transit corridor linking with the A127 as part of a holistic approach to movement and link into a broader network. This would be complemented by an enhanced central “hub” location for bus/rail/rapid transit linkages (location to be determined) and potentially a hub at the Airport.
At a Regional level, Transport East* has been established by the Government to address how transport can be improved across the whole of the East of England. Work on producing a Strategy is still at an early stage.
All strategic transport improvements will require considerable investment and Government funding. Those schemes located outside the Borough are not within the control of the Council while even those within the town would, in many cases, require partnership working.
What You Said
There were a broad range of comments on transport as part of the previous Issues and Options consultation on the New Local Plan held in early 2019. There was support for new infrastructure development with some respondents wanting the A127 to have major upgrades. There was also recognition that Strategic Option 3 (Urban extension) would require a Link Road with some of this being within the Rochford District. Various route options were suggested.
Enhancements to the road network were balanced by many respondents wanting to see improvements to walking, cycling and public transport networks, especially considering the growing importance of climate change. This included suggestions such as more bus priority measures.
Some respondents suggested reducing parking levels while other respondents wanted to see more. There was also recognition that Tourism brings its own transport challenges and that particular parts of the Borough have their own specific transport challenges. Comments are summarised in Figure 11.
Figure 11: Summary of Comments Made on Transport Elements of Issues and Options Report
Impact of the Covid Pandemic
Covid-19 has had significant impacts on transport. In the Spring 2020 lockdown, traffic across the country dropped to levels last seen in 1957, and the use of public transport and the airport dropped by as much as 90%. In contrast, cycling nearly tripled. The consequent months have seen a divergence in fortunes by different modes of transport, with public transport in particular struggling to recover its passengers.
Working from home could have significant impacts on how people travel to employment in future. It could considerably reduce future levels of rail commuting to London in particular, especially at peak times. It draws out the potential increasing importance of neighbourhood centres as employment “drop-in” hubs and how access to these locations could be made more attractive for residents who walk and cycle. Greater working from home also draws out the importance of developing robust digital networks. An understanding of changing demands for transport as well as how to best provide for changing mobility patterns will require flexible responses and monitoring.
Public Transport, Walking and Cycling
The future level of services on the railways in Southend is tied to the outcomes of the Government’s Rail Review, which has indicated that there are likely to be considerable change to the current system of rail franchising. The future of the bus network is reliant on ensuring that core bus services become commercially viable again.
There has also been significant Government action in promoting walking and cycling as a mode of transport. For shorter trips (less than a mile), walking and cycling is being pushed by Government policy as the primary means by which people should get around, and Government is investing in delivering Active Travel Schemes. New design guidance** has also been produced which requires every transport project to be assessed for how it improves the environment for walking and cycling.
Significantly, the Climate Change Committee in the Sixth Carbon Budget identified the need to take action in reducing the amount of trips people take, especially by the most polluting modes of transport. This means designing towns and cities in a manner that reduces the need to travel – for example by ensuring homes are located close to a range of day-to-day services and facilities and that these services and facilities are within easy reach by foot, bicycle, or by public transport, with associated benefits related to improving physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Climate Change Impacts
Climate change impacts will become increasingly challenging over the Plan period and will be addressed in the next iteration of the New Local Plan. Transport related emissions are around a third of overall emissions locally. It is important that the New Local Plan addresses this if the Council is to address its “Climate Change Emergency” aspirations. The delivery of electric vehicles, and associated charging infrastructure, will help to reduce emissions, and local councils will need to ensure that policies are in place to help support this.
Within the New Local Plan period the impacts of digital technology will become more prevalent. Revolutionary technologies like Mobility as a Service*** and autonomous cars may be adopted, but similarly some existing services could be augmented and improved by new technologies. This can include booking car parking spaces, booking car club cars to hire, and the supply chain becoming increasingly automated.
The availability of parking is an issue and can manifest in a number of ways. Average car ownership within Southend is 1.09 cars per household (1.31 cars per house and 0.65 cars per flat). The number of cars per household fluctuates between the different neighbourhood areas of Southend, for instance the rate within Southend Central, which comprises the town centre, is significantly lower than the Borough average being 0.69 cars per household (0.94 cars per house and 0.56 cars per flat).
In the more densely built up parts of the Borough with no off-street parking, there are challenges with the availability of on-street parking and its management. In suburban areas provision of parking for multi-car households needs to be assessed alongside overall design principles so that parking is incorporated in such a way that it doesn’t dominate the street scene and local environment.
When designing future developments, how parking is incorporated in an attractive way is an important consideration. This needs to be balanced; setting parking standards too high, whilst potentially mitigating on-street parking stress, can underutilise land where off-street spaces are not all used, encourage greater car ownership and therefore increased trips on the local network, limit the amount of development/ provision of new homes and potentially limit amenity space/ green space that can be provided within the development.
For local and town centre businesses, the views expressed on parking during the Issues and Options consultation (2019) were more mixed. Improved car parking is on the one hand sometimes considered as essential to ensuring that people can support local shops and businesses. However, wider evidence suggests**** that improving accessibility by bicycle, on foot, and by public transport is as important in encouraging people to shop locally. These modes can make up a significant proportion of local shopping trips. Supporting the accessibility of local businesses and retail by all modes should be considered.
The use of the car forms an important mode of tourism trips, particularly for families, and this needs to be taken into consideration in planning for future transport provision. This is recognised in the Southend Central Area Action Plan (SCAAP) which seeks to retain a level of parking provision in the Southend central area south of the railway line that supports the viability of the local tourism industry, whilst also recognising the important role other modes of transport play in helping people access the tourism offer.
Development Options and Transport Impacts
All new development has transport impacts. Increasing urban capacity (Strategy Option A*****) has advantages where new development is concentrated in close proximity to existing services making it easier for more people to walk and cycle to meet their everyday needs. Individually, such development often has a relatively small impact on existing transport networks, however when considered cumulatively the impact can be significant, e.g. on parking and on key junctions.
For Development Scenario B Facilitating urban change, transport impacts will vary considerably according to location. Former employment sites close to stations and bus stops are more sustainable than more peripheral greenfield sites where there has previously been limited traffic generation, though with good design impacts can be reduced.
For Development Scenarios C and D the development of new neighbourhoods to the north-east of the Borough, including land at Fossetts Farm, needs careful consideration in terms of transport impacts. The A1159 (Eastern Avenue/Royal Artillery Way) which links Shoeburyness to the A127 already has congestion issues at peak periods, particularly from Sutton Road westwards.
The highly urbanised nature of Southend creates challenges for making transport improvements. The A13 is single lane and has shops along much of its length, on-street parking and many junctions. This makes it challenging to improve travel times. The A127 is dual carriageway but has housing along parts of the corridor. While there remains scope for selective widening in some places, making further improvements to junctions is challenging and is likely to be very costly. Limited carriageway capacity creates challenges in managing competing pressures. For example, an extra vehicle lane may require removal of a cycle path (though that could be mitigated by improving provision for cyclists on the other side of the road).
A “Park and Ride” site is a possible option, however, to be attractive to users it must offer a competitive journey time to visitor destinations. To achieve this, bus priority measures would need to be put in place, but these would take space from other vehicles on an already crowded road. Pricing would also need to be competitive to attract users and be cheaper than the equivalent of parking at visitor destinations such as the airport, town centre or seafront. A bus (or very light rail) rapid transit option would also be likely to have implications for highway capacity as priority measures would be required though some routes would be outside existing main corridors.
The Council is updating its multi-modal model to consider transport impacts. One transport improvement being considered is a new multi-modal link road. This could be routed between points A, B and C (Figure 12), where:
- Link A to B between A127 (Nestuda Way) and Harp house Roundabout is within Southend; and
- Link B and C between Harp House Roundabout and Bournes Green Chase would include land within both Southend and Rochford District.
Another option for improving strategic road connectivity would be to build a new road linking a new neighbourhood to the north of Southend through Rochford District to link up to the A130. This would considerably enhance road and possibly bus links from the east of Southend northwards towards Chelmsford. However, the cost of such a route is likely to be prohibitive and would be located within Rochford District and would need the full support of Essex County Council as Highway Authority. Delivery of this is outside the remit of the New Local Plan.
Any road-based solution would also need to be fully integrated with public transport, walking and cycling improvements with good access to existing train stations. Careful design of the neighbourhoods can also help to reduce the need to travel including through the design of “walkable neighbourhoods”.
Figure 12: Possible access points for potential new link road
Transport and Access
What does this issue cover?
- Strategic and local highways issues
- Provision of a new link road
- Providing for sustainable transport modes, public transport, walking and cycling, encouraging active lifestyles
- Implications of new technology on transport patterns, contributing to Southend being recognised as a Green City
- Encouraging enhancements to the public realm, providing well designed, well connected, streets and spaces to encourage active travel
What information or evidence do we need for this issue?
- Southend Transport Assessment (2021)
- Local Transport Plan 3 including monitoring
- Public Health and Air Quality statistics
- Health and Wellbeing Strategy (draft)
- Southend Air Quality Strategy
- Low Emission Strategy (2018)
- Transport operator figures
- Southend Borough-wide Parking and Access Strategy (2018)
Related Southend 2050 Outcomes - where we want to be
- We act as a Green City with outstanding examples of energy efficient and carbon neutral buildings, streets, transport and recycling
- Working with the public transport providers to enhance and encourage the use of the existing provision moving towards a long-term aspiration to open new routes, enabling a wider accessibility to public transport options
- People have a wide choice of transport options
- We are leading the way in making public and private travel smart, clean and green
- More people have physically active lifestyles, including through the use of open spaces
- Our streets and public spaces are valued and support the mental and physical wellbeing of residents and visitors
**Local Transport Note 1/20
***This is the integration of several different transport service into a single service offering, such as a mobile phone application, available on demand, and with integrated ticketing and journey planning
****Living Streets (2020) The Pedestrian Pound. Link: https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/3890/pedestrian-pound-2018.pdf Transport for London (2018) The Economic Benefits of Walking and Cycling. Link: https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/economic-benefits-of-walking-and-cycling
*****Refer to Section 2.3 of the New Local Plan for reference to Strategy Options