Running from the north to the west of London, the Piccadilly line is also known as the Tourist Train because it serves most of capital’s top visitor attractions - the museums in South Kensington, Harrods, Buckingham Palace, the royal parks, the West End and Theatreland - as well as Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, and the St Pancras Eurostar services.
The bad news for young buyers is that the line cuts through the capital’s most expensive postcodes - gold-plated addresses such as Knightsbridge - while the good news is that it carries on to the outer reaches of London where property prices are much, much cheaper: Turnpike Lane and Wood Green stand out as good buying areas in Zone 3.
Daily commuters forced to jostle with backpackers will be pleased to learn that Transport for London is undertaking a major upgrade of the Piccadilly line, due to be completed by 2020. This will bring walk-through air-conditioned carriages - plus the controversial driverless trains - boosting capacity by 60 per cent (space for 20,000 more passengers an hour) and reducing journey times.
Before then, many Heathrow passengers who use the Piccadilly line are likely to switch to Crossrail, due in 2018, another bonus for regular blue line travellers.
Another important change on the horizon is that Turnham Green is to be made a permanent stop on the Piccadilly line, possibly from next year. This follows decades of lobbying by local residents, who argued that they deserved a better Tube service.
“I live in the area and it would knock 20 minutes off my daily commute into central London,” says Jo Sensini. “It is very frustrating standing on the platform waiting for a District line train, while two or three Piccadilly line trains pass through the station without stopping.”
The distance between Acton Town and Hammersmith stations, on either side of Turnham Green, is not much short of three miles, making it the longest between stops on the line and three times the average length between Piccadilly line stations.
The problem for Turnham Green is that it is a complex intersection, which means Piccadilly line trains only run there at the moment early in the morning and late at night.
A full service would undoubtedly boost local property prices. The area will be better connected and the high street, once the hub of a thriving village, will be revitalised.
First garden suburb
Bedford Park, London’s first purpose-built garden suburb, dating from 1875, will become even more coveted. Cloth merchant Jonathan Carr, who developed the estate, chose the spot because of its proximity to the newly opened Turnham Green station, and commissioned well-known architects of the day, such as Norman Shaw. Some 400 buildings, mostly Grade II-listed, make up the conservation area.
Homes range from two-storey cottages to seven-bedroom detached villas, semis and terraces of up to four storeys. Prices start from about £750,000. Savills is selling a big townhouse on Queen Anne’s Gardens for £4.9 million. Call 020 3641 1508.
Loft-style apartments with high ceilings and big windows are available at Factory Quarter, a redevelopment of the former Prestolite electronics plant in Turnham Green. Two-bedroom flats from £450,000. Call Dexters on 020 8166 3366.
West London’s reputation as the capital’s economic powerhouse has been challenged by Canary Wharf and the Olympic zone in the east. But the west is fighting back with major building projects and co-ordinated action backed by Boris Johnson and the western suburbs are tipped to rise in price more than many other districts over the next five years.
Heathrow’s expansion boosted the growth of satellite towns such as Hounslow and Uxbridge, but Sixties town planning ripped out their hearts. A regeneration initiative seeks to transform them into lively residential and commercial centres, collectively part of a geographical entity dubbed “Heathrow Quarter”. So the future looks promising.
Along the Uxbridge branch of the Piccadilly line, developers are bringing something fresh to an area characterised by inter-war housing.
London Square is a new company that aims to use traditional garden square architecture as a building template. Its latest scheme at Eastcote is 300 yards from the Tube station. Apartments in low-rise blocks surrounding communal gardens cost from £299,995. Call 0333 666 2535.
Unsung Alperton has such a low profile that most Londoners have not even heard of it. A B&Q superstore is making way at 243 Ealing Road for 441 homes alongside Grand Union Canal and is part of a Brent council masterplan to transform the neighbourhood into a residential haven, with a new school and shops, health centre and business premises. Completion is scheduled for 2015. Prices from £287,500. Call Hill Residential on 020 8997 3373. Shared ownership flats will be available through Network Housing Group.
Park Royal industrial zone is reinventing itself as a place to live. Redrow’s Royal Waterside has 265 apartments alongside a 20-acre nature reserve that includes lakes, waterfalls, bridges and cycle paths. Prices from £352,500. Call CBRE on 020 7182 2477. Developer Bellway is set to launch a scheme soon. Call 0845 018 0716.
Get in the zone
Taking average values, the cost of one property near Hyde Park is enough to buy 10 homes in Hatton Cross, the last truly residential area on the western stretch of the line.
Lucian Cook, director of Savills Research, points out that affordability greatly improves when entering zone two from zone one. “Prices drop about 40 per cent one stop on from Earls Court and King’s Cross at either end of zone one.”
Barons Court, home to the famous Queen’s Club tennis venue, is stuffed with red-brick mansion flats. But Earl’s Court, where the first phase of a major regeneration scheme launched last month, is a place to watch. A new district with 7,500 homes, a park and high street is being created on the exhibition centre site. Apartments at Lillie Square, the first of four linked neighbourhoods, cost from £595,000. Call Capco on 020 7381 9800.
As the line heads north of King’s Cross, property prices get more reasonable.
Lively Caledonian Road butts against Barnsbury, a pretty early 19th-century enclave of garden squares, cottages and ivy-clad pubs. Blessed by a traffic system that shuts out outsiders, it is almost a secret area of London. Though affluent, there are several in-fill developments around the edges where cheaper homes are on offer.
Eco homes: Four Hundred Caledonian Road is being converted from stables
Coming soon is Four Hundred Caledonian Road, where Igloo, a regeneration specialist, is restoring the handsome Victorian frontage and a rear stable block to create 25 low-energy homes, work studios and shops. Contact Currell on 020 7226 6611.
Arsenal is the only Tube station named after a football team. Homes around the old Art Deco Highbury stadium, renamed Highbury Square after conversion into apartments and boasting a modern garden occupying the former pitch, have jumped in value since the new Emirates stadium was built half a mile up the road, while Finsbury Park, the next stop along, is an emerging hotspot.
Prices rise again towards leafy Cockfosters at the end of the route where “gin and Jag” mansions fetch £3 million and more. The area is favoured by Arsenal footballers, according to Nick Staton, of estate agent Statons (call on 020 3318 7469). “But they don’t use the Tube,” he says.