Commute by boat: 100,000 new riverside homes planned for London by 2020

Live by the river and commute by Clipper. The Thames waterfront is getting 100,000 new homes - a move that will see passenger numbers double from six to 12 million a year by 2020.
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The Thames has been described as London’s “forgotten highway”, but a new initiative aims to turn the river into a key transport artery, serving up to 100,000 homes being built in riverside districts during the next decade. 

Plans unveiled by Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London reveal proposed new river bus routes and marinas that will see passenger numbers double from six to 12 million a year by 2020. Waterfront neighbourhoods and office districts will be designed to make it much easier for people to get to and from work using the Thames. 

The river’s profile as a leisure and recreation destination will also be boosted by new promenades, pontoons, performance spaces, pleasure boat moorings, floating restaurants and nature retreats, such as the Garden Bridge between Strand and the South Bank.

Plantation Wharf in Battersea is the first place to benefit. A new pier opens next month, coinciding with the launch of a fresh fleet of fuel-efficient catamarans, boosting capacity on the Putney to Blackfriars run.

City Hall planners are determined to avoid recreating the sterile neighbourhoods, with no shops or facilities, that typified the first wave of Docklands regeneration 30 years ago. Thoughtful architecture is helping to make the riverbank a more convivial place. Alluring, glass-clad apartments have large terraces and winter gardens for year-round living, allowing residents to enjoy the sweeping vistas and big, colour-changing skies.

“Demand for what might be called ‘property-upon-Thames’ has never been so strong,” says Candice Matthews, director of property consultant DTZ.


Riverside lifestyle
“Londoners have always gravitated towards the river, but the riverside lifestyle is a recent phenomenon,” says Matthews. “People can now buy into a prestige development with amenities on the doorstep, a 24-hour concierge, spa, security, underground parking and a long lease.”

This applies even in distinctly un-posh parts of the riverbank —such as Deptford, where the giant 3,500-home Convoys Wharf development is coming soon. Call 020 3296 2222.

There is always a premium to pay for a river-facing home, according to  estate agent Savills. Apartments within 100 yards or so of the Thames typically cost about 21 per cent more than similar-size homes in the vicinity.

Commute in comfort
Better river transport is an extra incentive to buy a home at a waterfront development — and a river bus trip is the best way to check out the numerous housing schemes springing up along the banks of the Thames.

Currently, there are two main river bus routes along the central Thames — Putney to Blackfriars via Chelsea Harbour, and from the London Eye to Woolwich via Canary Wharf. There are 19 piers in total. In addition, there is a Tate-to-Tate — Vauxhall to Bankside —service, plus a spur from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf, linking two parts of Docklands either side of the river.

MBNA Thames Clippers is the main commuter operator. When the service launched in 1999, only 87 passengers a day used it. Now there are more than 10,000 passengers a day — nearly four million a year.

Boats depart from central London piers every 20 minutes. All passengers are guaranteed a seat and, unlike the Tube, you can get an internet connection. There is also an on-board bar, where you can buy coffee and alcoholic drinks.

Adult single tickets cost from £3.90, and you can tap in and out with an Oyster card. Annual season tickets cost from £752.45.

“It’s relaxing, reliable and faster than most people realise,” says Tom Burke, of Savills Waterfront. He adds that the western shuttle route from Putney to Blackfriars — a journey of 42 minutes — is a boon for City-bound bankers. The extra hop to Canary Wharf takes only another 15 minutes.

 From £1.7 million: 706 homes will be built at Chelsea Waterfront. Call 020 7352 8852

Putney to Charing Cross
This stretch of the Thames embraces the most coveted riverside homes —splendid period properties along Chelsea Embankment, modern developments such as Imperial Wharf and Montevetro, and new addresses such as Nine Elms-Vauxhall. At long-disused Lots Road Power Station, 706 homes are being built at Chelsea Waterfront, alongside gardens, three pedestrian bridges across tidal Chelsea Creek and a 660-yard riverside promenade. Prices from £1.7 million. Call 020 7352 8852.

The new Plantation Wharf pier will serve a string of developments along the Battersea to Wandsworth stretch of waterfront, where the river bus is a much-needed transport link because there are no Tube stations. Battersea Reach has a series of dramatic glass-fronted apartment blocks with giant terraces overlooking the river. Prices from £775,000. Call 020 7978 4141.

Residents at Riverside Quarter, further west, have their own river bus pier, Wandsworth Riverside. The scheme sits on a bend of the Thames known as the Wandle Delta, a noted wildlife habitat, and the tranquil setting seems a million miles away from nearby traffic-clogged Wandsworth town centre.

Five Riverside, the latest phase, has 99 apartments in a 15-storey glass-clad tower. Two-bedroom flats cost from £705,000. Call 020 8877 2000.
From £796,995: apartments at Fulham Riverside, formerly the Kops Brewery. Call 0844 811 4334

New homes are also springing up on the north bank of the river opposite, around leafy Hurlingham. With 68 mansion block-style flats, Hurlingham Walk is set around landscaped courtyards. Prices from £700,000. Call St James on 020 8246 4199 for details. The former Kops Brewery has been reincarnated as Fulham Riverside, with 401 homes that are due for completion from 2017. The open area facing the river will have a central communal podium garden, with a 10ft-high waterfall feature and provision for a croquet lawn, table tennis tables and garden chessboard.

The façade of the old brewery, marked by a blue plaque, has been retained. Amenities include a fitness suite and badminton court, 24-hour concierge and underground parking. Prices from £796,995. Call Barratt on 0844 811 4334.

Until recently, the prized strip close to the Palace of Westminster was a home-free zone, but developers are unlocking sites for luxury apartments. Riverwalk House, along from Tate Britain and soaring Millbank Tower, was occupied by the Government Office for London. The Sixties building has been bulldozed to make way for Riverwalk — two curvy new blocks, one 17 storeys high, connected by a central podium, providing 113 homes. Prices from £1.25 million. Call 020 7409 8756.

Meanwhile, the former headquarters of Royal Pharmaceutical Society will soon become Palace View, a Taylor Wimpey development of 69 flats at the foot of Lambeth Bridge.
Easy rider: Putney to the City commuter Tim Skipper is a river bus veteran. Image by Daniel Lynch

Guaranteed seats, coffee and free wifi
Aptly named Tim Skipper is a river transport veteran. He has been using river boats to get to work for more than a decade, even before there was a dedicated commuter shuttle between his home in Putney and his office in the City.

“In the early days, the boats were mainly pleasure craft vessels — old and quite slow. If the tide was going the wrong way, it added 20 minutes to your journey. One time, I got stuck in a sand bank. But there has been an enormous improvement in the quality of boats and the service.”

He uses the Thames Clipper Putney to Blackfriars route, which takes about 42 minutes. “Door to door, my journey is a little longer than taking the train, but it is a much better way to commute. I always get a seat. I have a coffee on board, send emails and make telephone calls. Sometimes, I have business meetings on the boat. Clients love it.”

Skipper, 48, owns a recruitment company, Totum, specialising in office personnel for law firms. “It’s a really convivial way to travel,” he says.

“I’ve met at least five people, regular travellers like me, that I now consider close friends. Sometimes on summer evenings, we hop off at Chelsea Harbour on the way home and go for a drink before boarding another boat.”

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