The only way is Essex: super-fast Crossrail links to some of the cheapest homes commuters can buy

Essex, which has some of the best-value homes commuters can buy, is set to gain a super-fast Crossrail link to the City, West End and Heathrow.

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Essex commuter towns are on a roll. Regeneration is spreading from Docklands all the way to coastal resorts such as Southend and the historic Roman town of Colchester.

Though blemished by industrial eyesores along the Thames Estuary and lampooned as a county of tanning salons, nail bars, nightclubs and snooker players, more than two thirds of Essex is countryside, dotted with blissful villages with amazing medieval pubs. The county has some of the best state and private schools.

Rail connections to the City are already the quickest from any of the home counties. Those who know and love Essex would like to keep it under the radar but Crossrail will let the cat out of the bag, with reduced commuting times, better and more frequent trains plus a direct link to the West End and to Heathrow airport, which for many Essex residents will be easier and faster to get to than Stansted.



Seven Kings, Goodmayes and Chadwell Heath are part of the suburban sprawl as you head out of east London. Here you can find some of the capital’s cheapest homes — flats for less than £200,000, terrace houses in the £250,000 to £350,000 price bracket and big semis under £500,000. All three stations are getting a Crossrail facelift, with new forecourts and better parking provision and streetscaping.



Romford, in Zone 6, is a big commercial centre in its own right, with a lively evening scene. Piecemeal regeneration has improved the town centre and Crossrail is expected to be another catalyst for change.

Dolphin Leisure Centre, an ugly municipal complex built in the Eighties, has made way for The Axis, a Docklands-style scheme of flats above a supermarket. Prices from £145,000. Call estate agent Dwellings on 01708 923054. Ex-council homes bought under Right to Buy during the Eighties now sell for up to 20 times their original value and make up a large chunk of the local property market.




After Romford, the metropolitan green belt kicks in and Essex starts to get pretty. Gidea Park is an original Edwardian garden suburb, with small cottages and houses in an attractive setting adjoining golf courses and woodland.

Big detached houses in Broadway, one of the best roads, fetch £1 million-plus. Call Bairstow Eves on 01708 398045. In Repton Avenue, a three-bedroom Thirties semi costs £475,000. Flats in a listed converted factory in Elvet Avenue cost from £190,000. Call Haart on 01708 573092. 

From £475,000: townhouses at Kings Park in Harold Wood.

Kings Park, a parkland estate being built next to Harold Wood station, has flats from £197,500 and houses from £475,000. Call Countryside Properties on 01708 348578. From here the train ride to Bond Street will be 42 minutes.

Brentwood exudes a sense of wealth, has a rural feel and boasts a traditional high street with independent shops and a monthly farmers’ market. Architecturally it is a bit of a mishmash — there are expensive pockets and some quite ordinary ones, too, with trophy new-build houses and modern estates alongside Victorian and interwar terraces. People like the fact that it is surrounded by beautiful countryside and will be less than a 30-minute commute to the City.

The Galleries: a converted former Victorian asylum, is one of Brentwood’s best addresses.

The Galleries is one of the best addresses. This is a redevelopment of a former Victorian asylum, with 131 homes carved out of the listed buildings and cloisters. Decorative stonework, gothic arches, cast-iron columns, oak staircases, mouldings and fireplaces have been restored and original garden designs have been reinstated. There are loft-style apartments, and a triple-height home in the deconsecrated chapel. Just launched are flats in the clocktower with roof trusses and exposed brick walls. Prices from £375,000. Call City & Country on 01277 202122.

Shenfield, at the end of the Crossrail line, is not one but three places — there’s “Old Shenfield”, the Victorian village itself; Hutton Mount, where avenues of gin-and-jag houses in a private estate cost up to £2 million; and Hutton proper, which is strictly Sixties, busier and more affordable. Three stage schools add to the area’s character, and a comfortable house in comfortable surroundings costs £500,000 to £800,000. 

“Arguably Shenfield is the best commuter town in the home counties because it combines all the key requirements: a leafy and prosperous suburb, great for families, with quick access to the countryside and fast travel to central London,” says estate agent Beresfords. Call 01277 212111. Analysis by eMoov suggests Crossrail will boost the average Shenfield house price by a whopping £260,000 over the next six years. The ride to Tottenham Court Road will take four minutes longer on Crossrail than the current train and Tube route, but trips to Canary Wharf and Heathrow will be much quicker.


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