Southend Station Travel Plan
The Southend STP Pilot covers two of the principal stations in the Borough - Southend Central on the c2c line from London Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness, and Southend Victoria, the terminus of the National Express East Anglia route from London Liverpool Street.
The two stations are less than a mile apart, located at opposite ends of a pedestrianised High Street through the town centre. Victoria station is located near the Civic Centre, council offices, police station, law courts and library. Central station is located immediately adjacent to the rapidly expanding further education site, occupied by the South East Essex College and the University of Essex (Southend campus).
Both stations are seen primarily as destination stations (that is the end point for trips into Southend, for employment, education, shopping and leisure). The Borough has 9 stations in all within a tightly defined urban area. c2c in effect operates an intensive 'metro' style service of 4-6 trains per hour on its corridor, with other more suburban stations being the main origins of significant commuter traffic to London. NXEA operates 3 trains per hour on its corridor, which also serve dormitory settlements between Billericay and Southend.
Need for a Travel Plan
Southend Borough Council (the unitary authority) and the train operators wish to build up a comprehensive picture of the demand for rail travel across the Borough and saw the pilot projects as an opportunity to embark on a new style of transport planning that would guide investment and improvements in customer service. These two stations were originally submitted as separate bids, accompanied by further bids for Shoeburyness and Leigh-on-Sea stations. ATOC's decision to group the two stations together in the same pilot sets different challenges, but also allows a more comprehensive picture of rail access to the town centre to be achieved.
Whilst both stations are well located in terms of distance from shops, services and tourist locations such as the seafront, they are in many ways 'hidden assets' lacking in obvious links to those facilities. As destination stations, it is important to know how people expect to continue their onward journey (in many cases by foot or cycle), and to break down the barriers which might influence the choice of principal mode of travel from the point of origin of the journey (in most cases rail against car).
Southend will probably continue to attract a significant amount of inward investment in new development, transport infrastructure and public realm during the next 10-15 years. Community Infrastructure Funding (CIF) is already secured for junction and public realm improvements in the vicinity of Victoria station. In addition, funding has been made available to investigate design options for the area immediately to the south of Central station, which is expected to act as a catalyst for other funding.
Southend is designated as a Cycling Town, which brings a separate funding stream, and there are proposals from the railway industry for station improvements under the National Stations Improvement Programme. Finally, Southend is a partner in the â??Boost Advanced Public Transport Systems (BAPTS) project, between 9 European cities, which is seeking to share knowledge and experiences to develop model solutions for integrated transport. One of the actions for this BAPTS project is to develop the proposals for the 'Victoria Gateway' in Southend, integrating the railway station with public transport and the town centre in a high quality public realm project.
The Station Travel Plan is therefore of fundamental importance in ensuring that the needs of rail users are factored into short, medium and long term proposals for regeneration and the promotion of sustainable travel. As car ownership and environmental concerns grow, congestion will increasingly become a more serious factor in Southend, and rail travel is expected to increase its attractiveness to a wide range of the travel market. The aim is to use the plan to begin the process of breaking down these barriers through a range of small scale schemes, but to reference the outcomes of the plan against the longer term objectives of the major schemes.
Description of the process
Southend Borough Council is leading the development of the Station Travel Plan, supported as funding partners by the two train operators. Atkins, as the Council's term consultant for transportation, has provided technical support, project management and resources for additional survey work, over and above that provided centrally through ATOC.
As well as the survey information, which co ntinues to be supplemented by data from TOC sources and ongoing survey programmes carried out by the Borough Council, the detailed site audit of the stations and town centre has been critical. Video surveys have been an important tool in the analysis of barriers to onward travel.
The key element of the process has been the involvement of stakeholders, initially in setting the vision for the two stations in the next 5-10 years, and latterly in helping to prioritise the necessary interventions that have been identified through surveys and stakeholder discussions.
Stakeholders have included - local bus and taxi operators, Renaissance Southend (local regeneration agency), Network Rail, Essex Police and British Transport Police, cycling organisations (including the Cycling Town initiative), the Southend Access Group, Essex University, the NHS, Chamber of Commerce and local residents' groups.
Action Plan highlights
- Destination stations - the plan is largely targeted at improving the connections by sustainable modes between the stations and onward destinations.
- Important vehicular modes - car use is not significant at either station, but there are clearly issues about improving access to onward travel by bus and taxi.
- Improving the profile of cycling - Cycle Town status brings resources that may allow experiments with the type and quality of cycle facilities offered at the stations, with the option of one or more stations becoming a focus for a cycle hire scheme covering a wider area.
- Pedestrian desire lines - We now understand these better and need to support the network of pedestrian routes with a signage, information, security and accessibility package to create better links between the stations and key destinations.
- Integration with other programmes - A significant commitment will be made by all parties to use the knowledge gained within the STP process in the design and programming of other projects. This has already begun with the consultation and design work on the Victorias and Clifftown Road projects (access and public realm projects outside the two stations).
Key lessons learned
- Station Travel Planning at 'destination stations' brings different problems associated with the need to influence mode choice at the start of the journey and therefore across a much wider catchment area. This is particularly the case if we want to increase the number of people using the train service to access Southend, particularly in the offpeak, which is a principal objective of the plan.
- A true assessment of the barriers to rail travel that influence use of the car for the whole journey has not been possible to date. This is potentially a costly exercise without guarantee of success. Present thoughts are that it may be achieved through supplementary questions in routine surveys carried out by the Borough Council on wider transportation issues.
- The goal of integrating projects and programmes is something of a 'holy grail', which is proving very challenging! The Station Travel Plan will be part of a suite of plans and strategies, which together will help to unlock significant funding for projects within the town centre. Establishing 'cause and effect' and the true impact of the plan against measurable targets may therefore be more difficult.
- In the work done to date, we have identified specific sectors of the travel market, with which we need to do further more detailed work. The rapidly expanding student community is a case in point, and also those with mobility and sensual impairments.
- All of the above confirm that the Station Travel Plan will need to continue as a live document which will be subject to change and review over the coming years.