Work to start on The Bell junction upgrade as design finalised

The final design for The Bell junction improvement works has been revealed, with preliminary works set to step up in the New Year.

The design for the £5m junction upgrade, which will be largely funded from the Government’s Local Growth Fund (£4.3m), includes:

A new dedicated left-turn lane onto Rochford Road;

Extending the right-turn lane onto Hobleythick Lane;

Better pedestrian facilities on Rochford Road by providing a traffic-signal pedestrian crossing;

Better pedestrian facilities on Hobleythick Lane by providing a new pedestrian island;

Banning the right-turn onto Rochford Road, in order to free up more “green light” time for motorists going straight ahead along the A127 in both directions, and improve pedestrian facilities

Removing the footbridge, which does not comply with disability discrimination legislation because of the lack of ramps.

Cllr Ron Woodley, cabinet member for transport, inward and capital investment, said: “The Bell junction is a major route into central Southend, and we must ensure the junction is fit for purpose, with traffic flow and air quality improved, and capacity increased to help deal with the rapidly expanding airport and progression of Airport Business Park Southend.

“The final designs follow lots of good conversations with local residents and businesses in the summer. The drop-in sessions were well attended, with over 360 people telling us their favoured option.

“Lessons have been learnt from the Kent Elms project, and that is why preparatory works are being carried out, and further utility diversions are scheduled in the New Year to help prevent any unnecessary delays.

“I also fully recognise that upgrading junctions alone is not a long-term solution. We are a growing town, with a growing airport and a major business park under construction near Southend Airport. We need fit-for-future infrastructure and I will continue to work with other South Essex authorities to make a compelling business case for major investment in a new road serving our town.”

Gas and electricity companies are already moving underground pipes and cables around the junction prior to the main works commencing.  The next phase of this will start from Monday 13 January 2020 at Rochford Road and A127 Prince Avenue. Residents will be contacted by the companies in due course.

Before the electric (UK Power Networks) utility diversion works on A127 Prince Avenue start, 10 young trees will also be relocated to a verge on the other side of the road and vegetation will be cleared from the site. Comprehensive landscaping in the green space will take place at the end of the project to make the area more attractive and provide a better barrier against road noise for nearby residents.

The current programme of work is as follows:

  • January 2, 2020: Tree relocation and vegetation clearance at A127 Prince Avenue green space area
  • January 13, 2020: Electricity (UK Power Networks) utility diversions start and gas (Cadent) utility diversions start.
  • Summer 2020: Junction upgrade construction works start.
  • March 31, 2021: Construction works complete

An eight week consultation that started in July 2019 offered three options, all aimed at reducing queuing traffic and improving air quality at this key junction on the A127.

Three proposals were put to residents and businesses, with two public drop-in sessions held – one at Prince Avenue Primary school, and one at Earls Hall Primary school – where engineers were on hand to provide information on each of the three options.

369 people responded to the consultation which took place in summer 2019, with 81 per cent indicating their preference for option 2 or 3 which included the main aspects incorporated into the final design.

Mick Ferris

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