Q1) What is sert ?
sert will be a network of rapid transit services. It is intended to support development of new jobs and housing in South Essex by making it easier and more convenient to get between home and work. sert will be a high frequency, high quality form of public transport that utilises a package of congestion-beating measures - it will be fast, reliable and easy to use. sert will use modern, comfortable and environmentally friendly vehicles, with level boarding, GIS and CCTV. sert also will run in its own dedicated lanes through congested locations where space allows. Vehicles will also have technology which sends a signal to traffic lights to change to green when sert vehicles approach to ensure consistent and predictable journey times. Services will be frequent so that passengers can just "turn up and go". There will be high quality, easily-identifiable sert stops and interchanges at prime locations, with real time information displays and tickets will be purchased in advance to minimise delays at stops. Services will also be centrally controlled so that the sert network can be monitored and kept to schedule.
Q2) What are the key aims of the sert project?
sert will help deliver the goals of the Government's 'Sustainable Communities' Plan in Thames Gateway South Essex, by providing high quality public transport to get people where they want to go reliably, quickly and without delay. To do this, sert will:
  • Contribute to meeting targets for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from transport.
  • Help deliver regeneration and economic development.
  • Integrate communities with new development sites and key public transport interchanges.
  • Improve connections between homes, jobs and other destinations.
  • Be reliable, and designed to beat congestion.
  • Minimise the impact of travel on the environment.
  • Improve the 'image' of South Essex.
Q3) Why are other bus services not being improved in this way?
Working in partnership, the three local authorities of Essex County Council, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Thurrock District Council have strategies for public transport to improve bus, taxi, statutory and community transport services. This broadly focuses on tackling the growth in car use, congestion and improving accessibility to the four key service/amenities of health, employment, education and food shopping for identified socially excluded groups. To achieve these goals, the Councils have developed a broad range of measures that have been adopted both at a County level and locally. sert is one of these, but the strategy also includes:
  • Integrated Key Passenger Transport Corridors (IKPTCs).
  • New opportunities to work in partnership with the bus operators, including for example, Quality Bus Partnerships
  • A network of interurban express coach routes to reduce the need to use cars for longer distance commuter travel.
  • Bus Punctuality Improvement Partnerships (PIPs) with bus operators to improve service reliability through better scheduling, training and bus priority measures.
  • Integrated bus ticketing scheme for young people based on zonal fares.
  • Introducing 'Smart Card' technology for passenger transport services in Essex.
  • A Comprehensive real time passenger information system through the Essex Traffic Control Centre.
  • Tackling the effects of the school run by increasing public transport access and school travel plans.
  • Developing Park and Ride schemes for the four main Essex Regional Interchange Centres (which include Basidon, Thurrock and Southend).
  • Increasing use of and access to Community Transport Services.
  • Improving transport services in rural areas.
  • Improving personal safety on public transport,
  • Pollution reduction and air quality improvement,
  • Comprehensive marketing and publicity to promote sert
However, in the main urban areas earmarked for regeneration in South Essex, we believe sert with its high quality, frequent and high-capacity services is the most appropriate way to avoid the problems of increasing traffic congestion. It also is important that sert is not seen as a stand alone scheme - it is intended to complement and supplement the existing provision as and where appropriate. As it is a limited stop 'rapid' form of transportation, it is not a replacement for existing services and indeed would be inappropriate as a brand / ethos in terms particularly of vehicle capacity and frequency, compared to many existing bus routes. sert also will link with cycling and walking investment, for example money being spent on programmes reflecting Southend's status as a "Cycling Demonstration Town".
Q4) Where else does this type of system operate and are they successful there?
Rapid Transit operates in a number of different cities in the UK and worldwide. In the UK, schemes have already been a big success in places like Gravesend/Dartford, West Sussex, Ipswich, Leeds, Bradford, York and Edinburgh. Further schemes are planned in Cambridgeshire, Luton, South Hampshire, Bristol, Swansea, South Yorkshire, Manchester and Glasgow.
In Europe, there are lots of Rapid Transit systems operational and planned including Nantes, Caan, Claremont Ferrand and Rouen in France; Essen in Germany and Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
Worldwide examples include Bogota in Colombia; Brisbane and Adelaide in Australia and Ottawa and Portland in Canada.
Q5) How much Government money will you be bidding for? Is the money for this guaranteed?
The Government has allocated £53m to sert as part of the Regional Funding Allocation, but this money is not guaranteed. In order to access these funds a major scheme bid needs to be submitted to and approved by the Government. We plan to submit a major scheme bid in the summer based on a combination of routes in Basildon, Southend and Thurrock. It is likely that the total cost will exceed the funding available, so we will also be seeking additional funds from developers and other sources.
Q6) Why are you proposing this?
Traffic congestion is already a problem in South Essex and will only get worse unless measures are taken to tackle it. The Government's plans for the Thames Gateway South Essex include more than 30,000 homes and more than 40,000 jobs, which inevitably will mean more traffic on the roads. Therefore, we need to ensure that people can get to where they want to go quickly, easily and reliably. Public Transport needs to be improved significantly to help achieve this.
Q7) Do you have plans to link up with the sert routes in different areas?
For the initial phase, there is the potential to link the Basildon and Thurrock routes. In future phases of sert, we would look to link the initial sert routes together. In particular, we may examine possible links to the proposed London Gateway container port and to Canvey Island.
Q8) Will it mean fewer lanes for cars?
No. Where extra road capacity is needed and space is available, sert lanes will be added to existing carriageways. Elsewhere, they will be shared with other traffic. Where access to built up or retail areas is essential for all users there will be no reduction in capacity for existing traffic. In other areas there will be more flexibility, but in all case each scheme will be decided upon at a detailed local level taking the above into account. Where access to built-up or retail areas is essential for all users, there will be no reduction in capacity for existing traffic. In other areas there will be more flexibility, but in all cases, what is provided on the ground will be decided upon at a detailed local level taking all these factors into account.
Q9) What other partners are involved in sert?
sert is being led by Essex County Council, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Thurrock Council on behalf of the Thames Gateway South Essex Transportation Board. The Board members also include the other district councils in Essex, the Essex Business Consortium, representatives from central and regional Government, the Highways Agency and Network Rail. We have also had preliminary discussions with the existing major bus operators in South Essex about the sert proposals, and fully anticipate that they (or other private operators) will be important partners in delivering the sert services.
Q10) Are all routes proposed going to be implemented?
sert is envisaged as an area-wide network. The pace of implementation will depend on the availability of funding and the success of the first tranche of routes. As things currently stand, the amount of funding required to implement all the routes being consulted on in Basildon, Southend and Thurrock is greater than the amount of funding currently available. After consultation, the routes will be refined and further analysis will be conducted to ensure that the optimum combination of routes can be taken forward, with a funding application submitted to the Government in March 2010. Further routes will be planned, developed and built as funding permits.
Q11) Will bicycles be able to use the sert lanes?
Yes, provided that there are no safety considerations that may preclude this in a particular location.
Q12) Where will the key interchanges be?
The corridors on which we are presently consulting connect a number of existing transport interchanges such as Basildon Railway Station, Wickford Railway Station, Basildon Bus Station, Laindon Railway Station and Pitsea Railway Station.
Q13) Where will the stops be?
This has yet to be decided. The exact location of stops will depend on the final routes chosen and an analysis of where the most demand occurs. Clearly, there will be stops at key interchanges such as bus and rail stations, and places that attract visitors such as shops, schools and public buildings. We will also take account of people's views expressed in the consultation.
Q14) What facilities will there be at the stops?
We intend that the sert stops will be distinctive and well equipped. Typically, stops will have shelters, seats and lighting provided to a common, high quality standard. All stops will be named and clearly identified, good passenger information provided including 'London Underground' style route map, information on other public transport services and area map with local information at all stops Real time information will be provided by electronic displays and for RNIB key fob holders, indicating when the next two services are due and if service disruption has occurred. The kerbs at the stops will be raised for close, level and quick boarding, and integrated into the footway using high quality paving materials to identify stops. Ticket machines will be provided so people can buy their tickets in advance and the sert services are not slowed down by the driver having to sell them. At some of the busier stops and main interchanges, we will look at providing secure cycle parking where feasible, and we shall also provide CCTV surveillance for safety and security where this can be provided effectively. Longer term, we will also be looking at passenger help points for selected stops
Q15) Will there be the same facilities at all stops?
This has not yet been decided. All sert stops will maintain their quality, style and brand whether or not other bus services use them too.
Q16) Will the segregation operate 24 hours a day or just in peak hours on weekdays?
Where there is segregation, this generally will apply for the whole time that sert services are operating. This could be for 24 hours per day, but it is more likely to be between 6am and midnight.
Q17) When will services run, and how frequent will they be? Will it be this frequent all day or just during peak periods?
sert services are likely to run from 6am to midnight. The services are likely to run at least every 10 minutes Monday to Saturday from 7am to 7pm, but may be slightly less frequent outside these hours to reflect lower demand at these times. There may be routes where night services will be considered, e.g. those serving London Southend Airport or the hospitals in Basildon or Southend, to provide access for people working unsocial hours.
Q18) Will you be providing facilities to make interchange smoother?
sert will integrate with existing key interchanges such as rail and bus stations to enable easier interchange. Reliable journey times will make interchange smoother as contingency time for delays will be reduced. It is intended that tickets will be able to be integrated with other transport to enable seamless transfers using one ticket. As a minimum, we expect the Essex Saver and PLUSBUS tickets to be accepted on sert services.
Q19) What will the sert vehicles be like?
The vehicles will be modern, high quality, environmentally-friendly and comfortable. They will have level boarding so that wheelchair users and people with pushchairs can get on and off easily. They will be fitted with CCTV for your safety and security. In addition, the vehicles will be fitted with technology that provides a signal to the traffic lights to change to green to let the sert vehicles through without stopping. There will be electronic information displays on the front, rear and side of the vehicles, with visual and audible messages on board the bus to indicate the name of the next bus stop. There will also be clear branding of the vehicles, using a bespoke livery/internal decor to allow passengers to distinguish the sert network from conventional bus services.
Q20) How big will the vehicles be? Will you be using bendy buses?
We anticipate that the vehicles used to provide the sert services will accommodate about 60 passengers, and typically be about 10-12m long. The actual vehicles to be used will have to meet a detailed specification that will require high levels of quality, comfort and environmental performance. However, as there are several types of vehicle on the market that meet such criteria, it will be up to the operators which type is used.
Q21) How fast will the vehicle go?
Up to the road speed limit.
Q22) How much will the fares be? Will it be more expensive than a normal bus?
At this stage, it is intended that fares will be comparable with existing bus services, and part of an integrated fares system across the areas served as a whole.
Q23) Will the tickets be integrated with other services, so that we can use them on follow-on journeys?
It is intended that tickets will be able to be integrated with other transport to enable seamless transfers using one ticket. As a minimum, we expect the Essex Saver and PLUSBUS tickets to be accepted by sert services.
Q24) Will there be season tickets /group tickets?
Yes, on the same basis as existing bus services.
Q25) Will there be concessionary fares?
Yes, on the same basis as existing bus services
Q26) What are the impacts of construction
At present, it is not possible to be specific about this. However, in general terms during the construction of sert there will be the risk of environmental impacts such as dust and noise from the temporary presence of construction plant, equipment and materials stockpiles. However, all of these would only be for a short duration in any particular location, and are unlikely to be significant. Contracts let for construction work will include strict environmental management requirements to prevent pollution and mitigate any adverse environmental effects.
Q27) Are there any wildlife or conservation issues?
Potential effects on the environment were one of the key considerations in identifying the sert corridors chosen for consultation. Providing infrastructure for sert in the corridors on which we are consulting would not directly affect any habitats or species. However, as part of the case for funding that needs to be made to the Government, we will need to examine environmental issues in more depth, and confirm that if any significant effects are identified, that these can be mitigated adequately. In time, when the necessary consents to build sert are sought, we shall be carrying out a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which will look at the impacts of the scheme on the environment in detail.
Q28) How many trees will be destroyed?
We are designing sert to minimise impact on trees. If any trees do have to be removed, then we will replace these with double the number.
Q29) Will the vehicles be environmentally friendly?
When the sert vehicles are procured, strict environmental standards will be required. The actual fuel to be used will not be specified, provided that the standards for noise, carbon dioxide emissions and emissions of local air pollutants can be met. This means low-sulphur diesel, bio-fuel, electric or hybrid vehicles could all be used, provided they met the specification.
Q30) What are the green credentials?
sert reduces congestion by providing people with a viable sustainable transport alternative to the car. The type of vehicles that will be used to deliver sert services will have up-to-date engine technology to ensure maximum fuel efficiency and lowest levels of noise and pollution, and compared with a conventional bus can deliver:
  • 80-90% less air pollution;
  • 40% less fuel use;
  • 38% less carbon dioxide emissions; and
  • 30% less perceived sound levels (noise reduced from 78dB to74dB).
We estimate that because more people will use public transport due to sert and with the use of alternative fuels, we could reduce CO2 emissions by between 1,400 and 3,500 tonnes per year.
Q31) How long before it's up and running?
If funding is granted, construction could start in 2012, with the first service up and running in late 2012.
Q32) Will these plans definitely be extended in the future?
We hope sert will be extended in future phases but currently there are no confirmed plans for funding.
Q33) How far have you got with the plans?
The results of this consultation will shape the development of the scheme. We will then submit a funding bid to the Government in March 2010. If the application is successful, the proposals will be refined. Construction could start in 2012 and first services could begin in late 2012.
Q34) What happens next?
When we have finished planning and designing the schemes, taken on board the comments made during the consultation and established that sert does represent good value for money in terms that will satisfy the Government, we shall submit the bid for funding to them. We anticipate it could take up to a year for funding to be confirmed. At that stage we will carry out the detailed design work, obtain the necessary consents to build the sert infrastructure and negotiate the agreements with operators to run the services. Following procurement processes for the infrastructure, vehicles and service delivery, construction and testing of the system will take place.
Q35) What difference will this make to journey times compared to car/bus?
Even with significant investment in road widening and large amount of expenditure already planned in South Essex, congestion will still occur on most of the main roads in the area in the future due to the additional traffic generated by new development. This means journeys by car will take longer in the future, and this will get progressively worse over time. With sert, the priority measures mean that fast journey times will be able to be maintained even as congestion worsens. It also is important to remember that rapid transit services will be reliable. With a segregated corridor, services will not get caught in traffic and therefore the journey times will be consistent from day to day.
Q36) How will it integrate with other forms of transport including walking and cycling?
If practicable, cycle parking will be made available at the stops and interchanges. Cyclist and pedestrian access to stops will be a key consideration in defining stop locations. Existing cycling lanes will be retained and where possible, we'll integrate cycling and pedestrian facilities at junctions. There will also be stops at key interchanges with other modes of transport such as bus and rail stations. Car users will also benefit as there will be less congestion due to the implementation of sert.
Q37) How can my views be taken on board?
We have invited residents and businesses along the proposed routes to provide their views on these proposals. Your views do count. All comments on the proposals will be considered carefully and will inform the design of the scheme. You can write to us, telephone, complete the questionnaire on the leaflet or contact us through our website. We have also been speaking with stakeholders such as bus operators, bus groups, developers, local councils, business groups and employers. If there are any groups you think we should be speaking to which we haven't already done so, please let us know.