Crossrail is being built to keep Londoners on the move and the city ahead of its rivals — for a huge starting price of £16 billion. Margaret Thatcher first talked about it in the late Eighties; now, 18 years on, Gordon Brown has the job of getting it through Parliament over the next year. If he does, a world-class, high-frequency rail service will be up and running by 2017.
The route will run from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west and across the capital into Essex and Kent in the east. It will travel underground through the city centre between Paddington and East London and will operate mainline-sized trains carrying up to 1,500 passengers. There will be six new central London stations, integrated into existing routes.
The value of property in areas that will be faster and cheaper to commute from and to will rise, and new homes will spring up in areas previously unreachable. Developers are salivating at the thought, and buyers with investment money and long-term planning in mind should consider buying into the future.
With previous transport upgrades, such as the Jubilee line, London’s residential map changed. With Crossrail, the map will be redrawn yet again. This is a major regeneration catalyst breathing new life into unloved locations and polishing up familiar property hotspots.
Experts predict that property values around certain Crossrail hubs will “outperform”. Canary Wharf’s new station will cut the journey time to Heathrow from 67 minutes to 43 minutes, a joy for the large numbers of jet-setting bankers and lawyers moving into the Docklands area annually. Those who make bold decisions now can expect to benefit most over the longer term. The reality of Crossrail is only 10 years away.
The scale of the project will mean massive disruption for residents, commuters and London as engineering works involve deep-level drilling, with collosal machinery boring its way to meet up with the existing Tube lines. People will have to be rehoused when properties in the way of the bulldozer are compulsorily purchased, while hundreds of homes will need extra sound insulation. For sellers in the affected areas, Crossrail will show up on conveyancing searches and may deter some buyers.
Several big planning consents will be required for “above-station” residential, retail and office developments expected to help subsidise Crossrail. Ventilation shafts will be inserted along the route and the protesters are already preparing to defend prominent buildings that will inevitably be demolished. One of those is the Astoria theatre in Charing Cross Road, where objectors gathered over the weekend.
The line will cut a swathe through central London via new tunnels from Paddington to Whitechapel. The western branch line to Maidenhead will have a spur to Heathrow, while two eastern branch lines will extend to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood, south of the Thames, both providing onward links to the Thames Gateway region.
Inevitably, focus will intensify on areas and neighbourhoods thrown into the spotlight by the new route.
Homebuyers will be looking at the new routes, and to new stations to be built at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and the Isle of Dogs. Apartment schemes are under way or in the pipeline in these areas, creating instant off-plan buying opportunities. “Because the stations will become much bigger transport hubs, office rents are likely to rise and residential values will get a boost, too,” says Andrew Palmer, director of DTZ Residential.
Areas to watch
Tottenham Court Road
The new station at Tottenham Court Road will transform a scruffy pocket around Centre Point, which is already getting a face-lift with a new mixed-use scheme, Central St Giles. When complete in 2010, it will be a prime address in the heart of the West End. Developer Londonewcastle is building 56 apartments and 376,000sq ft of offices.
Homes will be released for sale early next year. Call estate agent EA Shaw on 020 7240 2255.
Farringdon station is poised for huge growth, with a predicted sevenfold increase in commuters. The station already has 30-minute connections to Gatwick and Luton airports and is pivotal to Network Rail’s upgrade of Thameslink services north and south.
“Heathrow is the missing link, and Crossrail will change this, but I think the major plus will be the much quicker link between Canary Wharf and the West End,” says David Salvi, of estate agent Hurford Salvi Carr. Th/e agent is soon to unveil boutique schemes in the Farringdon area — at Hatton Garden, Turnmill Street and Clerkenwell Green. Call 020 7250 1012.
Crossrail will spur on the long-delayed redevelopment of nearby Smithfield market, where a new station entrance is planned. The site has scope for a giant mixed-use scheme that will bring hundreds of new homes to the Square Mile.
A new Crossrail terminus is to be built between Liverpool Street and Moorgate stations. Housebuilders are targeting this City fringe area.
St Botolph’s is a scheme of 14 apartments being built at Spitalfields market, where prices start at £325,000. Call developer Native Land on 020 7349 7228. Coming soon is a high-rise development of 192 flats in Leonard Street by developer Tudorvale. Prices are from £350,000. Call DTZ on 020 7710 8116.
Paddington will also get a Crossrail boost. An estimated 30,000 people will work there once the regeneration is complete. Work will start soon on the latest phase, Merchant Square, which comprises 559 flats and 600,000sq ft of offices, plus a 43-storey tower.
“Buyers who think ahead do best from transport improvements,” says Neil Young, chief executive of property-investment firm Young Group.
“When the East London line extension was announced two years ago, properties around the proposed Dalston station jumped in value by about 10 per cent. We expect Crossrail to have the same impact at Canary Wharf.”
Young Group is selling flats at The Landmark from £355,000. For more information, call 0845 356 1000.
Property ripples will be felt along the route, not just in central London, around stations that will be significantly upgraded, notably Ealing Broadway, Southall, Hayes and Harlington, West Drayton, Slough and Maidenhead.
In these places, too, developers have been quick off the mark. West Drayton is a relatively cheap suburban location, where St George Homes has released new flats at a scheme called Parkwest, priced from £194,950. Call 01895 449009.
The Glass House in Maidenhead is a modern-looking Barratt development of 94 apartments above a new Sainsbury’s store. This will add much-needed fizz to a town centre that has suffered from architectural blight over the years and where dull, unimaginative buildings have overpowered a once sought-after residential town. Prices from £185,000; call 01628 629111.
Much-maligned, multi-cultural Slough, home to the largest industrial estate in Europe, is taking regeneration seriously. This will be another Crossrail beneficiary. Schemes currently being marketed include Mosaic Apartments, by Durkan Estates. Prices from £154,995; call 01753 518551. Aspects is a Barratt scheme of 197 flats, starting at £181,950. Call 01753 574262.