Slash commuting costs with a new home near a station: three London train hubs to watch

London's mainline stations have become hubs for homebuyers who see commuting as a waste of time and money. Waterloo, Paddington and London Bridge are at the centre of ambitious regeneration that is turning the surrounding districts into property hotspots.

Rising commuting costs are a compelling reason to look for a new home in the capital, where you can save on train fares, maybe even walk to your workplace, and enjoy all that London has to offer.

Research by estate agency Haart suggests about half of the mortgage savings that result from a move to a cheaper property outside London are wiped out by the high cost of getting to work by rail. Ticket prices jumped by an average of 2.8 per cent at the start of this month. Indeed, season ticket costs are now so high that some areas — Oxford and Cambridge among them — are more expensive for commuters to live in than London.

Season tickets have increased by roughly four times more than average wages over the last five years, according to the Campaign for Better Transport. A Milton Keynes to London season ticket has jumped 23.5 per cent since January 2010 to £4,888 now. Previously, the combination of lower property prices, reasonable fares and fast trains made Milton Keynes one of the best-value commuter locations — but no longer.



This change comes at a time when London’s mainline stations, busier than ever, are at the centre of ambitious regeneration that is turning the surrounding districts into property hotspots.

Not since the great Victorian railway era have mainline stations been such important commercial hubs. Crossrail has been a catalyst at Paddington, but new planning policies and multibillion-pound investment have been putting London’s other mainline stations at the heart of new mixed-use communities, with smart new homes, shops and glittering offices changing the skyline and burying the stigma of living too close to the tracks.

These much-improved neighbourhoods are popular with twentysomething and thirtysomething career professionals and those who simply love London in all its grand variety, people set to benefit from the 24-hour weekend Tube service that is being introduced in September. It’s wise to check out these areas now, as their residential values will get a big boost in coming years.

A mayoral vision for a revitalised quarter around Waterloo station, London’s biggest and busiest commuter hub, is coming to fruition.

Redevelopment of Shell Centre into 877 new homes has been given the planning green light and is one of several key projects set to transform the windswept streets around the station, including a run-down patch that has not recovered since the Greater  London Council left County Hall more than 25 years ago.

Elizabeth House, a Sixties eyesore in York Road, is to be replaced with 142 flats and two office towers for up to 8,500 workers, while a new public space called Victory Arch will be created in front of the station and better pedestrian routes will be opened up to Royal Festival Hall. The sprawling station complex extends to 24½ acres and is home to the disused Eurostar terminal, which will either be brought back to life for commuter services or be transformed into a shopping mall.

Coin Street Community Builders, the influential grass-roots group that converted derelict Oxo Tower into a fashionable complex of flats, galleries and restaurants, is redeveloping land it owns at Upper Ground, near the National Theatre. A new headquarters for the Rambert dance company is complete and coming next is a 43-storey tower with 355 flats plus a leisure centre, cafés and a new town square. Call 020 7021 1600.

Despite its growing cachet, Waterloo might still be described as a “discount district”, a good-value Zone 1 address that is within budget even for many first-time buyers. It has a charming urban residential mix — pretty Victorian terraces such as those in Roupell Street, charitable and church housing, cared-for council estates and small pockets of new apartments, as well as sweeping waterfront developments.
Lateral living near Southbank culture: flats in Dover House start at £895,000

Dover House, a former hotel and restaurant in Lower Marsh, which has a street market and is attracting more upmarket shops and boutiques, has been refurbished and split into nine lateral apartments priced from £895,000. Call estate agent Jackson-Stops & Staff on 020 7664 6649.

Once-undesirable Paddington has turned the corner in terms of residential status. Bustling Praed Street, the main commercial drag, is improving, while seedy B&Bs and backpacker hotels are becoming boutique flats.

The new Crossrail station is eagerly awaited as the new east-west route will allow bankers and lawyers to live in west London from 2018 while enjoying a quick and painless 17-minute commute to Canary Wharf.

Many travellers who pass through the station are unaware of Paddington’s revitalised canal basin, once a closed-off industrial zone but now a convivial urban quarter of homes, shops, offices and waterfront bars and brasseries.

Some say it lacks the vitality of neighbouring Bayswater and the charm of Little Venice, but it has plenty of devotees. The area is on the periphery of core central London and within comfortable walking distance of Marylebone, Marble Arch and Hyde Park. “There has been a price correction following an overzealous market last year,” says Tom Folland of the local Hamptons International branch, hinting at buying opportunities.

Paddington Exchange, next to busy Harrow Road, is part of the 80-acre canalside district and brings 123 apartments in elegant high-rise blocks with communal roof terraces. Prices from £990,000. Call 020 3376 6409.

Merchant Square is a cluster of canalside apartment blocks amid attractive landscaped areas with “sculptural” bridges across the water leading to a garden square, performance space and an innovative “water maze”. Penthouses up to 4,308sq ft in size, with vast “sunset” terraces, have been launched. Prices from £3.4 million. Call 020 7993 7393.

While current travel disruption due to construction work at the station is a commuter curse, the silver lining is that London Bridge will be a far better place when work is completed. The station is being completely rebuilt and when finished in 2018 will have the largest concourse in the country, bigger than the pitch at Wembley Stadium.

The £6.5 billion Thameslink project is about “place-making” as much as transport connectivity, with London Bridge evolving into a major business and residential district.

The Shard has cemented the area’s fast-rising status, and the objective now is to integrate that tower of riches with a mainly small-scale area that includes medieval lanes and passageways. London Bridge Quarter is the name of the wider development zone, which is causing property ripples in bordering Borough and Bermondsey. City boys and creative types as well as emigrés from posher parts of south-west London are renting and buying locally, according to estate agent  Daniel Cobb. Apartment schemes are continuing to spring up, some in slightly off-pitch locations where values are lower. The Valentine, in Long Lane, has 19 flats priced from £680,000. Call 020 7357 0026.

Crest Nicholson has three projects on the go, including redevelopment of Brandon House, which will bring 100 homes, including flats and townhouses. Another scheme, in Melior Street, moments from the Shard, has 37 flats. To register, call 020 3640 7555.

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