Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Revealed: From Reading to Redhill -- the Top 20 Commuter Stations

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Revealed: From Reading to Redhill -- the Top 20 Commuter Stations

Article excerpt

Byline: Ruth Bloomfield

EVERY morning millions of commuters flood into London -- but until today, no one was sure where they were coming from.

Now a new survey has revealed the top 20 busiest commuter stations shipping workers into the capital from the suburbs, market towns and even historic cities.

Reading, only half an hour from London, is the unsurprising most popular commuter location with almost 4.7 million season ticket journeys made from the Berkshire town each year. It is also one of the most inexpensive areas in the top 20 -- an average property costs a little under [pounds sterling]243,000, though house prices have increased seven per cent in the past five years.

Chelmsford, in Essex, is nearly as popular -- with almost 4.4 million season ticket journeys. At 38 minutes it takes a little longer but the pay-off is that average house prices are [pounds sterling]10,000 cheaper. House prices have also grown seven per cent since the peak of the market.

NET SPREADS BEYOND THE HOME COUNTIES The two areas that have achieved the most impressive house-price growth could not be more different. Leafy, upmarket Sevenoaks in Kent, with an average house price of almost [pounds sterling]554,000, has seen prices rise by 34 per cent over seven years. The somewhat less polished Harpenden, in Hertfordshire, has also seen prices rise 34 per cent, but an average home there costs under [pounds sterling]325,000. In fact, statistically, the only clear difference between the two areas is journey time: 23 minutes from London to Harpenden versus 33 minutes from London to Sevenoaks.

The data also shows how commuters are spreading their nets beyond the home counties. Cambridge, a city in its own right and 60 miles from central London, makes the top 20 with almost 2.3 million journeys a year. House prices here are appealing, at an average of just over [pounds sterling]292,000, and they have risen a healthy 14 per cent. The journey time is long -- about 52 minutes -- but this has not dented Cambridge's growing popularity. Season ticket journeys have risen 30 per cent in the past five years, reflecting a willingness to look further afield for quality housing and a great lifestyle.

The research is based on detailed analysis of the use of stations beyond the M25 -- but within an hour's travel time of London -- according to the Office of Rail Regulation.

Lucian Cook, director of residential research for Savills, says areas with the biggest price gains tend to be those that were already expensive and sought after.

It means that smart addresses, such as St Albans in Hertfordshire (up 21 per cent), which act as magnets for wealth coming out of the capital, are doing better than less aspirational dormitory towns such as Colchester in Essex (up a below-inflationary one per cent).

"There is also some evidence of larger increases in commuter numbers in the affluent commuter towns towards the edge of the 60-minute travel time, with Winchester and Cambridge both seeing 30 per cent increase in commuter numbers over the past five years," says Cook. …

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