Designs for eight new central London Crossrail stations have been unveiled following the Government's spending review pledge to continue funding the £16 billion east-west train link, due for completion in 2017.
As with previous transport upgrades, such as the Jubilee Tube extension and the DLR, these new Crossrail hubs are set to be a major regeneration catalyst. Not only will the immediate vicinity around the new showpiece stations be physically transformed with new homes, smart shops and offices built above them, there will also be attractive new open spaces and public areas.
Hot tip: Farringdon
Informed property watchers have their eye on one particular place — the City-fringe district of Farringdon. Now one of London's quieter mainline stations, by 2017 Farringdon will be Britain's busiest, with a sevenfold increase in commuters and 140 trains per hour passing through it.
With the advent of Crossrail, Farringdon will be the only London terminus with fully integrated north-south (of the river) and east-west routes; Thameslink — also being upgraded — and the Tube. It will provide direct links to Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and London City airports as well to Eurostar services at St Pancras and trains to Brighton on the south coast.
Property investment opportunities will be substantial in and around the area. Farringdon sits on the western edge of Clerkenwell and for some time has been an area in transition.
It remains a small-scale business district, popular with creative-sector companies and has a lively nightclub scene, but the projected transport improvements are attracting big corporate occupiers such as Merrill Lynch.
Insiders believe Crossrail will spur 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, including hundreds of new homes and much-needed shops.
"Office rents will rise and so will residential values as affluent whitecollar workers buy or rent homes nearby," says Andrew Palmer, of property consultant DTZ.
Clerkenwell has become a vast media village but it is beginning to attract City singles — mainly bachelor bankers and lawyers — happy to get home to a relaxed and fashionable young area, and this new developement will just make it more attractive to them. Says David Salvi of estate agent Hurford Salvi Carr: "At the moment Clerkenwell has no direct train link to Heathrow; Crossrail will change this but I think the major plus will be the much quicker connections to Canary Wharf and the West End."
Who's buying now?
Already, boutique apartment schemes are growing up on either side of Farringdon station. At 25-27 Farringdon Road, conversion flats in a stunning gothic Victorian corner building where banknotes were once printed are priced from £379,950.
On fast-improving Turnmill Street, a crisp, contemporary new-build development has 13 apartments above streetlevel offices and a double-height glazed frontage. Each flat has floor-to-ceiling windows and either a balcony or terrace.
Prices from £690,000. A pair of penthouse apartments will be released next spring. Call 020 7250 1012.
Salvi says local niche developers are back on the scene and up to a dozen schemes are in the pipeline.
Prime rump stake
Homebuyers are bound to focus on areas and neighbourhoods thrown into the spotlight by the new route.
Though there is no immediate rush to buy, those who make bold decisions now can expect to benefit over the longer term. Off-plan buying opportunities are available in some areas right now.
The new station at Tottenham Court Road will help transform the scruffy patch around Centre Point, already getting a facelift with a new mixed-use scheme called Central St Giles, which includes 56 private apartments due for completion next July.
Only penthouses remain for sale, priced from £1.8 million. Call EA Shaw on 020 7240 2255.
"This rump end of Oxford Street has long been neglected and has some of the best growth potential in central London," says Ben Everest of West End estate agent LDG.
Here comes East Soho
A masterplan for the area is being created and there is talk of it being rebranded as East Soho. With Royal Mail privatisation back on the agenda, the post office depot on Rathbone Place, moments from the station, is a major redevelopment candidate. Property ripples are also being felt outside central London where several stations will be significantly upgraded.
Developer St George has been quick off the mark at West Drayton, a relatively cheap suburban location. Flats at the Parkwest scheme are priced from £179,950. Call 01895 449009.
High Point Village is a new canalside scheme next to Hayes and Harlington station. This Docklands-style development of modern partments offers concierge, valet parking, a health spa, bars and restaurants. Prices from £164,950. Call Ballymore on 0800 092 7070.
Abbey Wood, an isolated south-east London outpost and one of the capital's cheapest areas, will get a much-needed lift. Crossrail will cut the journey time to Canary Wharf to just nine minutes. Neighbouring Woolwich has been a hotspot for several years and was recently plugged into the DLR network. A new phase of apartments has been released at Royal Arsenal, the former munitions factory.
Called The Armouries, prices start at £242,500 Call 020 8331 7130.
Running 73 miles from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore tunnels under central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, Crossrail is the capital's most important transport improvement for 50 years. It will bring 1.5 million more people within 45 minutes' commuting distance of London's key business districts, giving an estimated £42 billion boost to the economy.
In addition to Farringdon, the new central London stations will be at: Paddington Bond Street Tottenham Court Road Liverpool Street Whitechapel Canary Wharf Custom House (close to Royal Victoria Dock)
Dust, noise and tears … who is going to get cross with Crossrail?
The scale of the Crossrail project means inevitable disruption for residents affected by the complicated engineering works.
Some people will have to be rehoused. Properties in the way of the bulldozers will be compulsorily purchased, while hundreds more homes will need better sound insulation.
For sellers in the affected areas, Crossrail will show up on conveyancing searches and make some buyers hesitant.
Several big planning consents are required for the above-station developments. Ventilation shafts will be dotted along the route.
Some prominent buildings, including the Astoria on Charing Cross Road, have already been demolished.