SOUTHEND Council has tonight issued a statement denying a controversial plan for single-lane traffic in Queensway is still on the cards.

The Echo reported today that plans to turn Queensway in Southend, which is currently a dual-carriageway, into a single carriageway, are still being considered.

We said it was published in the council's new transport strategy.

Despite the story being published early today and no attempt at engagement by phone, email or any complaint being made to the Echo throughout the day, the council tonight put out a statement on social media and later sent it to the Echo newsdesk asking us to publish it in Monday's paper.

The statement said: "Cllr Andrew Moring, cabinet member for infrastructure, has set the record straight and stated that this is not the case."

He said: “The council’s is committed to four lanes – two in each direction - remaining in place in any future designs for Queensway. Absolutely nothing has changed. That commitment remains in place.

“We have made keeping four lanes an absolute and mandatory requirement for any future development partner. That is what is clearly stated in our procurement documents.

“The report discussed in the Echo article, by transportation advisors Steer Davies Gleave, does not refer to any change in council policy in respect of Queensway.

“It is time to kill off these rumours of single-lane traffic.”

The option was first put forward by council officers with plans for the £300million development of the Queensway estate.

It was dismissed by councillors in April last year however, after a backlash from businesses and seafront traders who feared further gridlock on sunny days when scores of drivers use the road to get to the seafront.

Today, the Echo said the council’s Parking and Access Strategy for the town shows the plan is still in the offing in order to encourage more cyclists and pedestrians and deter car use in the town centre.

Our report quoted the strategy as saying: “Building on the more people-friendly road layout at Southend Victoria station and the Better Queensway proposals, there is scope to continue improvements to Queensway to make a more user-friendly pedestrian/cycle boulevard in place of the existing vehicle-oriented dual carriageway design.”

To seek council comment and confirmation, we contacted senior Tory councillor Mark Flewitt.

He was quoted as saying it was still being considered.

Mr Flewitt said: “It is our strategy but it’s a bit of a moveable feast. Whatever we put out there can be interpreted in various ways. It would be impossible to come up with a strategy everyone agrees with because people have diverse views.

“People have got to respond before it is final. It’s not set in stone. We can still have a debate but we have got to have something to talk about.”

Mr Flewitt added: “People might object to a cycle lane but there is a big cycling lobby saying they want this but we don’t want to be anti-vehicle.

“It’s still on the table but we need to consult on it before anything hard and fast is decided.”

No to more park and ride

The council’s newly published transport strategy has dismissed the introduction of park-and-ride schemes anywhere in the town as unfeasible.

The council trialled a park-and-ride scheme from the Civic Centre to the seafront but it proved unpopular.

Drivers were able to leave their cars at the Southend Civic Centre car park in Victoria Avenue before taking the number 9 bus to the Kursaal on the seafront.

The total cost of the park and ride was £7, which included a £3 parking charge and £4 return bus ticket.

The scheme was dropped following the pilot scheme but the council has not revealed how many people actually used it.

The new transport strategy looked at introducing the scheme at Leigh Railway Station. It said: “There are several options for accessing Southend Central Area by parking close to a rail station or bus route and continuing the journey by rail or bus to stations / bus stops in the Central Area.

“None of these options is currently presented as park and ride for Southend, nor are they likely to be currently used as such by many people.

“ Assessment of park and ride options found potential for park and ride by rail from Leigh-on-Sea, Pitsea and Benfleet stations is limited by the combined cost of rail fares and parking which may not be competitive with town centre parking and ease of finding the stations from the strategic routes into Southend.”