I was rather pleased, reading in the Echo yesterday that the portfolio holder for transport on Southend Borough Council, Cllr Martin Terry, is apparently earnestly considering a park and ride arrangement for Southend.
Readers will, I hope, forgive me for staking a small claim to this policy, given that during the election campaign myself and Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Southend West, Julian Ware-Lane, called for just such a measure as part of a number of vital transportation reforms that the town desperately needs.
The addition of a park and ride will given another alternative to braving the haphazard and overstretched parking in the town centre, whilst hopefully providing a new section of customers for local shops and businesses.
My hope, also, is that this will be a first step in taking local transport more seriously. The buses in Southend, in particular, are not up to scratch.
It is one of the deep regrets in Labour’s general election defeat, that local authorities like Southend will not now get powers keenly needed over bus service provision. I grew up in Warrington, one of the few remaining towns with a municipal (council-owned) bus company, and the difference in provision is stark. Too many parts of the borough are not served by bus companies, because it is not deemed sufficiently profitable, leaving residents facing a significant walk if they can’t afford or run a car.
The park and ride, if it comes to pass, is a victory of which I will be proud. But there is a way to go to make transport infrastructure fit for purpose in Southend, and this is just a first step.