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Council’s £2.1m plan to get us on the buses

Echo: Changes in the pipeline – Southend Travel Centre Changes in the pipeline – Southend Travel Centre

BUS stations will be overhauled, stops moved or altered and an Oyster card-style system introduced as part of a £2.1million plan to get more people using Southend’s buses.

Southend Council have outlined how they will spend the money after a successful bid for a share of a Government cash pot earlier this year.

Chief among their ideas is installing a smart card system – a localised equivalent of London’s Oyster card – to make journeys easier.

Paul Mathieson, the council’s group manager of transport and planning policy, said: “This programme affects the lives of all those who live, work and visit the town. The implications are positive, as the intention is to provide an improved, reliable bus network, to enable better journey times, reduce congestion and provide a reduction in carbon emissions.”

The council applied for almost £1.6million from the Department for Transport’s Better Bus Area fund, a £50million fund set aside to encourage more people to use public transport.

As part of its bid, it agreed to find an extra £500,000, with the money coming from its own coffers and contributions from Arriva and First Buses , the main bus companies operating in the town.

The vast bulk of the money will go on six projects –- installing the smart card readers and system on every bus, and making changes at major bus stops, such as Leigh station and Southchurch Road.

A total of £100,000 will be spent overhauling the much-maligned Travel Centre, which was built at the southern end of Chichester Road in 2006 to replace the old central bus station.

Passengers have frequently complained about the cramped waiting areas and sparse protection against the weather.

To improve the station, bosses plan to upgrade the shelters and move the kerbs to give waiting passengers more space.

The smart card system, once introduced, could also be linked to other forms of transport and council services.

The new franchisee for the c2c line will be forced to bring in a similar system when the contract begins next May, while council chiefs have previously predicted the cards could even be used for payments in libraries or on school buses.

Tony Cox, the Tory councillor responsible for transport, said: “The Oyster-style system would be much more convenient.

“London has proved it is the best way of attracting people to public transport.”

The council’s plans will be discussed by the cross-party economic and environmental scrutiny committee on Thursday, before a final decision is made by the Tory cabinet in November.

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