BUS lanes, hi-tech traffic lights and revamped bus stops are some of the improvements planned as part of a £6million scheme to make bus journeys quicker and more reliable.

Work on what Essex County Council calls the A13 Passenger Transport Corridor is due to begin on Monday, with the widening of the southern carriageway of the road between Southwold Road and Tarpots, in Benfleet, to make room for a bus lane.

Of the 76 bus stops along the scheme’s route – which runs from Basildon rail station through Vange, along the old London Road in Pitsea, via Sadlers Farm through to Hadleigh – the 22 busiest are to get real-time electronic timetable displays.

The displays will be updated using GPS technology if a bus is running late.

Bus stop kerbs will be raised to make it easier for disabled passengers and parents with pushchairs to get on the buses, while 20 new bus shelters will be provided at stops which either do not have a shelter or where the existing one is in a bad condition.

At peak times, First Essex runs about 30 buses an hour along various stretches of the route.

Chelsea de Silva, First Essex’s revenue and marketing manager, welcomed the improvements.

She said: “Once the work is complete, we hope to see a vast improvement to traffic flow between Sadlers Farm and Hadleigh. The work to be carried out will assist us in maintaining our reliability and increasing confidence in our services.”

The mini-roundabouts at Tarpots are to be replaced with so-called intelligent traffic lights.

These will be linked to traffic lights being introduced at Sadlers Farm – which is part of a separate road improvement scheme – and at the Kents Hill Road junction, which will be upgraded as part of the A13 project.

The lights will be able to monitor the flow of traffic and respond to changing situations to move traffic through at a steady rate.

They will also respond to late running buses by letting them through more quickly when they are approaching the lights.

Norman Hume, Tory county councillor responsible for transport, believes the improvements will encourage drivers to think about catching the bus instead.

He said: “This scheme will make buses more reliable by using short lengths of bus lanes to get them to junctions more quickly. It will make the waiting area safer and more pleasant, and provide passengers with the information they need.”

Three short bus lanes will be created: l The first will approach Tarpots from the east, starting from Southwold Crescent l The second will approach Kents Hill Road from the west, starting at Manor Road l The third will approach Kents Hill Road from the east, starting at Catherine Road.

Following a public consultation into an earlier version of the scheme, the bus lanes were shortened. A bus lane between Park Chase and the Southend borough border, on the south side of the A13 in Hadleigh, was scrapped following a public outcry about chopping down several trees.

The three new bus lanes will only operate during peak hours from 7am until 10am and 4pm until 7pm.

They will also be open to taxis, motorbikes and cycles.

Despite the focus on improving the situation for buses, Mr Hume insisted other road users would benefit as well.

He said: “The widening of the substandard lanes between Tarpots and Sadlers Farm will allow traffic to move more safely and efficiently.

“These improvements will greatly support economic regeneration planned for south Essex.”

HERE are the details of start dates for the A13 traffic scheme.

* August – widening of south side of A13 for bus lane between Southwold Crescent and Tarpots. May take three months * October – work starts on bus lane approaching Kents Hill Road from the east l November – bus lane approaching Kents Hill Road from the west starting at Manor Road.

* November – minor kerb alterations to widen the junction at Kenneth Road. Earlier idea for traffic lights at junction was scrapped * Late 2010/early 2011 – upgrading lights at Kents Hill Road starts once bus lanes complete. Preparatory works for cable ducting will be carried out earlier * Autumn 2011 – widening of the four narrow lanes between Sadlers Farm and Tarpots to 3m each. Option chosen over proposals for a bus lane as felt to be more cost effective and would have less impact on verges. All widening will take place on the southern side of the London Road. It will be carried out by Birse Civils, contractor carrying out work on the Sadlers Farm roundabout * Autumn 2011 – replacement of mini roundabouts with lights at Tarpots. Work carried out by Birse Civils. Traffic lights will be linked to lights at Sadlers Farm to improve traffic flow.