Dramatic cuts in journey times following line upgrades for trains to London from Birmingham and Solihull have seen commuter numbers rise by nearly 300 per cent.
Chiltern Railways predicts numbers will continue to grow as Londoners realise commuting from the Midlands is now do-able on a daily basis.
The completion last September of a £250 million line improvement project for trains using Marylebone station sparked a huge rise in daily season ticket travel as commuters took advantage of 20 per cent reductions in journey times.
Solihull has seen a 283 per cent year-on-year rise in daily season ticket journeys after travel times were cut from an hour and 51 minutes to 82 minutes.
Journeys from Birmingham Moor Street increased by 179 per cent, after the journey time reduced from one hour 58 minutes to 90 minutes. Journeys from Warwick Parkway rose by 40 per cent and departures from Leamington Spa rose by 29 per cent.
Toby Harris, associate at Strutt and Parker, has already seen the impact at the firm’s Banbury office where journeys have increased by 25 per cent.
“People who want to make the big step out now feel it is much more do-able. Our problem is that we just don’t have enough houses to sell them. One thing we have seen is that people are now willing to travel further to the station so the radius of where is considered commutable has been pushed out.”
Thomas Ableman, marketing director at Chiltern, says he expects numbers to grow. At the moment they conceded the actual numbers commuting from these far-flung destinations is still fairly modest: 712-a-day from Banbury, and 148 from Warwick. “But it is growing all the time,” he said.
Ableman pointed out the new timetable is still in its infancy. “It takes longer than three months to buy a house,” he said. He believes the current increase is due to more locals opting for jobs in London, and expects to see an exodus of Londoners to these areas in the coming years.
These locations are dramatically cheaper than buying in London. An average home in Birmingham currently costs £156,000, which might soften the blow of a three-hour daily round trip. Buyers would pay £249,000 in Solihull, £229,000 in Leamington Spa, £215,000 in Warwick Parkway, and £178,000 in Banbury. This compares to an average of £333,255 for an average home in suburban London, according to research compiled by Savills.
“London commuters tend to bring new wealth to regional housing markets, though they remain sensitive to the quality of life which an area has to offer,” said Sophie Chick, research analyst at Savills. “As a result the housing markets of Leamington Spa and Solihull are more likely to benefit than, say, central Birmingham.”