Ease the journey

First choose your train line - then your home. Rosalind Russell says a new report shows you how to save money on a daily commute
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Turning from central-London living to countryside commuting is a major lifestyle change that should begin with the ease and cost of the commute.

Four times as many Londoners are leaving the capital this autumn compared with last year, and most are initially searching for properties to rent - working on the sound principle of trying out an area before buying into it.

With rental being once again fashionable in this mortgage-dearth market, Londoners are discovering that they can easily let their small homes in London and get a larger house in the country for less rental money.

'Average house prices fall by about £80,000 over 80 minutes' travelling time from London'

With belt tightening being the order of the day, saving on commuting fares is also a huge consideration. For instance, Crawley, in West Sussex, and Harlow, in Essex, are both 30 miles from central London but there is a £224 difference in the rail season tickets (Crawley is more expensive).

But if you want to live in West Sussex take the train from Gatwick, rather than Crawley, using First Capital Trains and not the Gatwick Express, and your journey will be cheaper - you’ll also find a direct service into Kensington Olympia and to the City.

Savills, who did the recent research into Londoners moving out, looked at the cost of season tickets from 175 stations outside the M25, and discovered, among other things, an unexpected swathe of cheap areas - between Crawley and Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

A three-bedroom cottage in Hertford Heath
£439,995: a three-bedroom cottage in Hertford Heath. Call 01992 586501
“Within a two-hour travel time, the strength of commuter demand is driven by the quality of the living environment as well as the journey times,” says Lucian Cook of Savills. “Average house prices fall by about £80,000 over 80 minutes’ travelling time from London. That is, at the rate of £1,000 a minute.”

Rural appeal

Crowborough and Uckfield, with services into Victoria and London Bridge, and from where season tickets cost £2,092, are 35 miles south of London and are in the cheaper travel band on Savills’ rail ticket heat map. Commuters 13 miles to the west of Uckfield in Haywards Heath have to pay £2,744 a year, an increase of £652.

On the edge of Ashdown Forest is Crowborough, less than an hour by train from London. It is a rural area but it does have the gold standard supermarket, Waitrose, and it is a quick drive to Tunbridge Wells, with its historic elegance and choice of high street and high-end shopping.

A season ticket from East Grinstead is even cheaper, at £1,848, although tired shops and planned housing development make it a less attractive prospect to Londoners leaving for a better quality of life, but there are pockets of rural charm.

It is, however, good for City and West End workers. And for families there are seven primary schools and two prep schools in Crowborough and students can cross the county border to attend Kent’s grammar schools.

How far dare you go?

You can move deep into serious mud-and-wellies countryside and pay less for travel if you are prepared to accept a less frequent - or slower - service.

Waghorns, Hadlow Down, near Uckfield
£950,000: Waghorns, Hadlow Down, near Uckfield, East Sussex, has four bedrooms. Call 01892 512020
For example, the season ticket from Colchester into Liverpool Street costs £3,740 with trains running every 15 minutes and a journey time of 50 minutes.

However, by looking 15 miles west to Braintree, and travelling for an extra 10 minutes and waiting every 30 minutes for a train into Liverpool Street, you would save £360.

Hertford and its near neighbour Ware are about 20 miles from London but have largely escaped modern developments. There are two stations at Hertford, where a season ticket to Moorgate or Liverpool Street costs £1,912, with a half-hourly service to Liverpool Street (52 minutes) or to Moorgate every 20 minutes.

By contrast, a season ticket from Welwyn Garden City, just seven miles to the west of Hertford as the crow flies, costs £2,160, an extra £260. Two years ago, Hertford came in the top 10 places to live in the UK in a Channel 4 survey.

‘The journey is not much longer from Ware than from Twickenham’

Sanchia and Michael Wooddisse moved to Ware from Twickenham 18 months ago, when Michael changed jobs. “I work in central London, so I commute,” says Sanchia.

“The train takes only about 45 minutes, which is not much more than the journey from Twickenham. I drop my two-year-old off at nursery, it’s a five-minute walk to the station and when I get to Liverpool Street, I walk to St Paul’s. It’s really easy.”

Chapel Mews, Ware, Hertfordshire
£435,000: Chapel Mews, New Road, Ware. Call Ensum Brown (01920 412200)
The couple looked at several towns nearby, including Bishops Stortford, before settling on Ware. They save £848 a year by not living in Bishops Stortford, as the season ticket from there is £2,760.

The couple bought a spacious three-bedroom chapel conversion. “We could never have afforded a house like this, with parking, in Twickenham,” Sanchia says.

They are now moving to be closer to family, and their chapel conversion is for sale at £435,000 (see picture at top of page). For more information, call Ensum Brown on 01920 412200.

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