ASK any Londoner what irritates them most about the city and they will say two things. First, the transport is rubbish and second, it is too hard to buy a decent, affordable home. For families who want their children to grow up outside London, the misery of the commute has to be weighed against the improved standard of living.
But the coming of several new transport links should go some way to solving these problems. Crossrail, High Speed 2 and the upgrade to the Thameslink will bring several new areas into play as potential homes for commuters. Just last week the government announced massive investment in the railways, which will hopefully make longer-distance commuting an attractive option.
Crossrail will slash commuting times from both the east – think Stratford and even Brentwood – and to the west – from the towns of Berkshire. The Thameslink upgrade will see trains double in length, meaning that those who commute from places like Luton, Harpenden and St Albans in the north and Brighton and Croydon to the south might actually be able to get a seat. The flashy new interchange at Farringdon will also mean that commuters can switch easily on to both the Circle and District lines, and Crossrail. High Speed 1 has opened up parts of Kent like Dartford and Strood.
Estate agents in these areas say that say that the impact of the recession means that so far there is little new development, but it is only a matter of time. “Crossrail will open the door to towns like Maidenhead for commuters. Maidenhead to Bond Street or Tottenham Court Road by Crossrail will be half an hour quicker than it is now,” says David Le Neve Foster, director of County Homesearch in Berkshire. This will mean that prices in the well-developed city centre will increase, but also that developers are sure to look to build new developments on the edges of town or on brownfield sites.
North of London, the Hertfordshire towns of St Albans, Harpenden, Hertford and others are already commuter hotspots, but as Simon Pendlebury of Linden Homes points out, the improvement to the Thameslink will also improve the through trains to the airports of Gatwick to the south of London and to Luton in the north, while the Farringdon interchange onto Crossrail will slash journey times to Heathrow in the west.
Added to all of this are the changes to the congested London Bridge area, which will improve the commute from the Dartford area. At the moment there are just two tracks for all trains on these lines, and this will be doubled by 2012. Demolition of parts of Borough Market are underway at the moment and regrettable as they are, they will ease the bottleneck that currently makes travelling from the east into the City, Waterloo and Charing Cross a chore.
With the creation of High Speed 2, which will link London and Edinburgh via Birmingham, it might even become plausible to commute from England’s second city to London. In fact, say developer Hackett & James, some are already buying its luxury properties in Birmingham and commuting into London. With a journey time of an hour and a quarter on quiet trains where you can work, it’s possibly a better use of your time than taking a cattle-truck from the London suburbs. Crest Nicholson’s Park Central in Birmingham would also be an option.
At the moment it’s too early to say we are entering a new era of travel paradise in the Home Counties, especially as some of the promised upgrades won’t be in place until 2019, but at long last things are looking up for commuters. Not a moment too soon.
BALLS PARK, HERTFORD
Ten minutes from Hertford North and East Railway Stations, this offers a 45-minute commute into central London, something that will become more pleasant when the Thameslink upgrade kicks in. The 17th century Balls Park mansion, built around 1650, and the Grade II-listed coach house and stables, built in 1902, are currently being transformed into 40 apartments set in beautiful landscaped gardens and parkland, which all residents will have access to.
For further information, contact City & Country Group on 01992 551777 or visit: www.balls-park.co.uk.
From Hackney to the country
WHEN they decided that they needed more space, Bekim and Elizabeth Nuhiu and their son Leon knew that they had to look beyond Hackney, where they owned a flat. Property prices were rising due to the East London regeneration ahead of the Olympics – 26 per cent in Hackney as a whole, and 69 per cent in some areas, according to research by Lloyds TSB – making moving up the property ladder impossible.
“We love Hackney and would have happily stayed in the area but we simply couldn’t afford to buy a larger home there,” said Elizabeth. “We wanted to buy a three bedroom house with a garden and this would just not have been possible in Hackney or anywhere nearby. We also wanted Leon to grow up experiencing the countryside but we needed to be close to London and good travel links as I work near St Pancras and my husband works in Charlton.”
After looking at Dartford, they plumped for the new Liberty Park development, built by Crest Nicholson. Their new home, which cost just over £200,000, is just a mile and a half from Strood station, which gives Elizabeth a 32-minute commute to St Pancras on the High Speed 1 line. “I’m at my desk in just over an hour of leaving home which,
considering it used to take me 45 minutes from Hackney, is really very good – particularly as we can enjoy all the benefits of living in the countryside for only an extra 15 minute commute.” Trains from Strood also go to London Bridge, Waterloo East and Charing Cross. The development is just two miles from picturesque Rochester and close to the A2 and M2 motorways.
LIBERTY PARK, KENT
Perhaps the best feature of this development for commuters is that Strood railway station is just a mile and a half away, with a 32-minute trip to St Pancras. The properties themselves have a traditional feel, with weatherboarding and hanging tiles, while tree-lined boulevards and landscaped open space give it a spacious feel. Two, three and four-bedroom houses are available, perfect for growing families. Two bedroom coach houses from £149,500; three bedroom houses from £214,500.
For further information contact Crest Nicholson on 0870 752 4382 or visit www.crestnicholson.com/LibertyPark.
HARDY’S GATE, DARTFORD
A development of two-bedroom coach houses, two and three-bedroom cottages and four-bedroom detached homes built in a “traditional style” around a village green, this is designed for young families looking for more space outside London. The homes are close to Dartford and the Bluewater shopping centre, and are in the catchment area for the top schools in Dartford and adjacent to the sought-after Dartford Grammar School for Girls. Dartford to Charing Cross is theoretically a 45-minute commute, while the nearby Ebbsfleet International station takes you to St Pancras in 17 minutes. Two-bedroom houses start at £225,000, three-bedroom houses at £275,000 and four-bedroom houses at £370,000.
Contact the sales and marketing suite on 0870 757 8188 or visit www.crestnicholson.com.
REGENCY GATE, MAIDENHEAD
Close to the town’s shops and restaurants and a short walk from the mainline station, with a 45-minute commute into London. Crossrail won’t be here until 2017, but when it opens it will give quick access into the City and West End. Heathrow is just 16 miles away, and the M25, M4 and M40 are nearby.
Two and three-bedroom apartments are on the market, as well as three and four-bedroom townhouses, all built in a traditional style with fully-fitted designer kitchens with earthstone worktops and energy efficient appliances. £450,000 for a four-bedroom townhouse.
Visit www.lindenhomes.co.uk or call the Linden Homes sales team on 01895 827 456.
MOSAIC, ST ALBANS
Mosaic is a collection of 259 apartments just a few minutes walk from St Albans train station, with regular and fast trains to London St Pancras in 20 minutes, Farringdon in 30 minutes and London Bridge in 40 minutes. The contemporary city-style apartments feature open-plan layouts and built-in AEG energy efficient appliances. Many also have en suite bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows and a terrace or balcony. Prices start at £170,000 for a studio apartment, with one, two and three bedroom apartments also available.
See www.lindenhomes.co.uk or call the Linden Homes sales team on 01895 827 456.