Given the extensive road network that supports Southend, the most common way of entering the city is via car. There are two junctions leading to Southend off the London-orbital motorway. These two, A127 (junction 29) and A13 (junction 30), head straight towards the town centre.
Given a choice between the two roads, get on the A127 for its free-flowing traffic. However, if you’re heading to Southend during a busy summer weekend, use the A13 as the A127 is prone to traffic at that time of year. That’s when hordes of day-trippers make a beeline towards the seaside.
Don’t be alarmed by the fact that there is no permanent car park or ride facility in Southend. The town has more than enough parking spaces for everyone, even during the truly busy days. Rates are around 70p per hour in a car park and £1 per hour on a parking meter on the street. The parking space of choice is the Seaway car park because it has numerous parking spaces and is right in the centre of things, at a close distance to all the shops as well as to the sea.
Planning on travelling to Southend via train instead? You have two options – the Southend Victoria train station or the Southend Central train station. The Southend Victoria station is right above town and hosts trains from the One Railways-run London Liverpool Street. From London Liverpool Street, trains pass through Prittlewell, Rochford, Hockley, Rayleigh, Wickford, Billericay, Shenfield and Stratford. There’s always a train leaving the London station every 20 minutes during Mondays to Saturdays and every 30 minutes during Sundays.
The Southend Central station is right in the middle of town and hosts the trains of c2c Railways from Fenchurch Street. From Fenchurch Street, the train passes through Benfleet, Basildon or Tilbury and Barking, and from Southend, through Thorpe Bay, Southend East and Southend Central back to Fenchurch Street. Trains leave the station every 15 minutes during Mondays to Saturdays and every 30 minutes during Sundays. A third station, Southend East, also services Southend but its location is far from the town centre.
Regardless of whichever train station you choose to take, travel time to Southend usually takes about one hour. But tickets are not interchangeable and cannot be used on the other train line.
Once in Southend, the best way to get around is through your feet as getting from one end of town to the other isn’t much of a walk. If you’re heading towards the sea from, say, the Southend Victoria station, the entire walk will take about 15 minutes at most. Once on the seafront, you can heat east to Thorpe Bay or west to Westcliff.
If you choose to get around the city in a car, it’s an easy ride. Traffic is very light and the roads are hardly busy. Plus, getting from place to place only takes a short while.
Taking the bus may not be as convenient, but it certainly is reliable. The bus service, operated by Arriva Buses and First Buses, will take you exactly where you want to go and on time. During summer, the buses used to run open-top along the seafront on the stretch between Shoeburyness and Leigh-on-Sea and provided a magnificent view of the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, this service has been stopped for a couple of years now, but there’s always the chance it could come back, right? For instance, in 2006, the open-top service resumed but, unfortunately, it was only for an oh-so-brief six weeks. And bear this in mind: the buses may run all day long but sometimes tend to cease operations early in the evening. Make sure you find out the exact time of the last bus to make sure you’re not stranded anywhere.
An easy place to catch the bus is the modern travel centre a short distance away from the high street. Every bus that travels around Southend passes here. In addition, there is a travel centre on the premises where you can check for timetables and other information.
Of course, if you plan to do a lot of shopping or are out on the town on a special date, you should at least take a taxi. Fortunately, there are plenty of taxis in town. The bad news is that there are very little ‘black cabs’ around so you’ll have to grab your cab at the nearest taxi rank. Either that or order your taxi over the phone. A word of warning: taxi fare tends to rise when night falls and is pretty expensive by midnight.
International travellers enter the city through London Southend Airport, which has regularly scheduled flights to Jersey every Saturday during summer. For 2008, construction will begin on a new terminal and rail station which will increase the airport’s range of destinations significantly. Estimates indicate that these developments will boost passenger traffic to one to two million passengers a year. At present, airport management is having discussions with interested airlines.