Maidenhead is the most westerly stop on the new service, which will cross London west to east, to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in south-east London. For the people of Maidenhead it means a direct 40-minute ride to Bond Street in the West End or a 54-minute journey to Canary Wharf.
This is a good enough reason, if you are planning a move “to the country”, to consider this area — despite dubious town-centre redevelopment which has given Maidenhead a rash of bland concrete office blocks.
Local estate agents say that buyers are just waking up to the potential of Crossrail and with property prices in Maidenhead still struggling to make up ground lost in the recession, the town is now seen as a potential hotspot offering good value.
About 30 miles west of London in the Thames Valley the town is a mixed bag: along the Thames you’ll find large houses and a jaunty air — a reminder of Edwardian times when this was a favourite place for an outing, or even an illicit liaison at the notorious Skindles Hotel at Boulter’s Lock.
There are Georgian houses and charming period cottages in the adjoining villages of Pinkneys Green, pretty Bray village — a foodie haunt with the famous Fat Duck and Waterside Inn restaurants leading the charge – while Cookham has The Chequers hostelry, and Cookham Dean the Jolly Farmer, a community-owned pub.
Maidenhead offers every type of home from neat Victorian terraces and large Twenties houses, to Sixties townhouses and balconied modern flats.
The area attracts: Suzy Lambert from estate agents Savills says that Londoners are moving to Maidenhead, especially from areas in west London. Buyers like the idea that house prices might rise in the run-up to the arrival of Crossrail. They definitely have pound signs in their eyes.
Some buyers are put off by the lacklustre town centre but the council is planning improvements and is backing plans from the local waterways trust to bring boats, punts and canoes into the town centre by improving the neglected small rivers and streams that run through it.
Staying power: a wide choice of property means that people can easily trade up and down so newcomers tend to stay.
Renting: There are a number of large employers in Maidenhead such as Hutchison 3G and Hitachi, so there is strong rental demand from employees who may only be working here for a few years. Gill Mooney, Savills rental manager, says there is a demand for weekend homes along the river and in the villages.
Postcode: The Slough postcode SL6 covers Maidenhead and all the surrounding villages.
Best roads: the roads off the A4094, the riverside road which runs north from Maidenhead Bridge, and streets in the villages of Pinkneys Green, Cookham, Cookham Dean and Bray.
What’s new in Maidenhead: Shanly Homes Limited, a local, not always very imaginative builder, is proposing a mix-used regeneration scheme at the Chapel Arches (01494 671331) on the High Street which will involve restoring a section of the York Stream; there will be one, two and three-bedroom flats with shops on the ground floor and a new riverside square.
8teenthirty8 (0800 840 8768) is a development of one-, two- and three- bedroom flats by Miller Homes on Oldfield Road. Prices start at £188,000 for a one-bedroom flat.
Up and coming: Maidenhead has a number of terraces of 1960s town houses which make spacious, airy homes. They are considerably cheaper than the equivalent-sized Victorian terrace.
Getting an education
Many popular and successful primary schools; the following are judged outstanding by the government’s education watchdog Ofsted: Oldfield in Chiltern Road, Boyne Hill CofE in Rutland Road, Lowbrook in The Fairway and St Edmund Campion RC in Altwood Road. Cox Green (co-ed ages 11 to 18) in Highfield Lane, Newlands (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Farm Road and Furze Platt Senior in Furze Platt Road (co-ed ages 11 to 18) are the three best local comprehensive schools.
Maidenhead children can take the 11-plus to gain a place at one or two of three local Buckinghamshire grammar schools depending on where they live. These are Burnham in Slough, Beaconsfield High in Beaconsfield and Sir William Borlase’s in Marlow.
There is also a choice of private prep schools. Highfield (girls, ages three to 11) is in West Road, St Piran’s (co-ed ages three to 11) is in Gringer Hill; Winbury (co-ed ages two to eight) is a pre-prep school in Bray. Claires Court Schools (co-educational, ages two to 18) is an all-through school, operating from three sites in Maidenhead with separate schools for boys and girls from ages four to 16. Redroofs Theatre Schools (co-educational, ages seven to 18) is the stage school attended by Hollywood actress Kate Winslet.
Shopping and dining out
Maidenhead town centre has an impressive summer floral display but the town has suffered in the recession. The town centre shopping mall, the Nicholson’s centre, has lost a number of significant tenants. High street stores are unexciting and predictable — Dorothy Perkins, Top Shop and the Body Shop. The town has a large Sainsbury’s and smaller Waitrose and Tesco. There’s a farmer’s market on the second Sunday of the month in the Grove Road car park and a Thursday general produce market twice a month on the High Street.
There are chain coffee shops and restaurants including a Prezzo and Pizza Express. Nearby Bray attracts food lovers from around the world, with half of the UK’s three-Michelin-starred restaurants: Alain Roux’s Waterside Inn and Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck. For those on more modest budgets Heston Blumenthal also owns two pubs in the village: The Hinds Head and the Crown.
Open spaces: The Thames Path offers Thames-side walks to Cookham and Marlow in one direction and Windsor in the other. Maidenhead has a number of small green flag parks, while the National Trust owns much of the woodland and commons around Pinkneys Green and Cookham, where there are stunning country walks.
Leisure and the arts: the Norden Farm Centre on the outskirts of Maidenhead in Altwood Road is the local arts centre. It runs films and classes and workshops. Maidenhead also has a 10-screen Odeon multiplex. The Magnet Leisure Centre is the council-owned swimming pool. The David Lloyd gym also has a pool. The Maidenhead Golf Club has an 18-hole golf course.
Travel: Maidenhead is on the A4 and is close to the M4. As well as Maidenhead station, there are stations at Furze Platt and Cookham. Maidenhead to Paddington takes around 45 minutes, occasional fast trains cut the journey time to around half an hour. An annual season ticket costs £2,644.
Council: the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (Conservative controlled); Band D council tax for the 2012/2013 tax year: £1,216.43.
Buying in Maidenhead
One-bedroom flat £166,000
Two-bedroom flat £263,000
Two-bedroom house £308,000
Three-bedroom house £348,000
Four-bedroom house £545,000
Renting in Maidenhead
One-bedroom flat £750 to £950 a month
Two-bedroom flat £1,000 to £1,400 a month
Two-bedroom house £1,000 to £1,400 a month
Three-bedroom house £1,800 to £2,500 a month
Four-bedroom house £2,500 to £3,500 a month
Five-bedroom-plus house £3,000 to £5,000 or more a month
Photographs: Graham Hussey