FOR years, Cuckoo Corner has been one of Southend’s most notorious traffic bottlenecks.

Long-suffering drivers crawled along Prince Avenue and Priory Crescent as they struggled to get into the town centre in rush hour.

After more than a decade of talk about various plans and months of roadworks, Cuckoo Corner is undergoing £5million of improvements, funded by the Government.

Southend Council hopes the project means long queues of cars will become a thing of the past. It also hopes the works, along with other A127 improvements, will help businesses in the east of the town, by making it easier to get to and from Shoebury and Thorpe Bay.

The main changes are widening lanes around the roundabout to three lanes, and the approach from Prince Avenue and Priory Crescent. Three sets of traffic lights have been put on all of the approaching roads, apart from Manners Way, and three more sets around the roundabout itself.

The ongoing lane closures, noise and disruptions have left residents, shopkeepers and drivers at their wits’ end.

However, council transport chiefs have no doubt things will get better as a result.

The council expects journey times to be reduced by a third in the morning rush hour, while they times for evening journeys will be halved.

Andrew Meddle, the council’s head of planning, said: “Some days you won’t notice a difference, like on the airshow weekend.

“The rest of the time, this system will really help us improve how traffic flows around the town centre.

“There has been disruption to businesses and residents, but the end product will be worth the wait.”

Ask motorists about their recent experiences of Cuckoo Corner and you are unlikely to get a positive response.

Many claim the installation of traffic lights on the roundabout will unnecessarily hold up traffic. Queues stretched back to the Bell pub on the A127 when they were first turned on earlier this month, which doubters said proved them right.

However, the council said day-time lane closures along Prince Avenue and Victoria Avenue are to blame for the delays, rather than the lights.

Only one lane has been open along Prince Avenue because a pedestrian crossing is being moved, as opposed to three when work is complete.

The new lights system is working on timing that does not respond to traffic build-up. Over the next two weeks, the lights will be changed to react to traffic.

All the work has to be completed before the end of March, otherwise anything not done will have to be paid for by the council.

From that point, beleaguered Cuckoo Corner commuters will soon discover whether the millions have been well spent.