The latest analysis from estate agent Jackson-Stops has revealed the top commuter hotspots for London, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham, with Luton retaining its title as the king of the capital’s commuter belt.
With train fares increasing on average by a further 3.1% from the start of 2019 – sparking a national day of action on Wednesday as passengers made their feelings clear about the latest rise – finding a location that offers fast, reliable and affordable rail links has become more important than ever.
In 2018, the railways – and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, in particular – faced severe criticism for numerous train strikes, poor services, falling punctuality (at its lowest level for 13 years) and the chaos caused by May’s botched timetable changes.
Despite this, and the numerous protests taking place at stations across the country, rail fares have still shot up by an average of 3.1%, which will see some commuters paying more than £100 extra for their season tickets this year.
As a result, commuters will be carefully considering the location of their next home, and Jackson-Stops has taken this into account to find the best destinations for those working in the UK’s four major cities. It based its findings on a host of measures, including average house prices, annual house price growth, train reliability and speed of journey, using a points based system to rank the various locations.
Luton in Bedfordshire once again came out on top as London’s number one commuter location, followed by Cheshunt in Hertfordshire and Slough in Berkshire.
Although the cost of an annual train ticket to London with a Zone 1-6 travel card costs almost £500 more in Luton than the average price across all areas analysed, the town took home the crown thanks to its average property price of £253,988 and strong rail performance rating.
It has benefitted – and is still benefitting – from significant regeneration thanks to £1.5 billion worth of inward investment from the Luton Investment Framework. This will lead to the delivery of hundreds of new homes, shops and restaurants, the planned creation of 18,500 new jobs over the next 20 years and the upgrading of the town centre.
It’s also helped by the presence of an international airport on its doorstep and journey times to London of just 27 minutes. What’s more, average prices in the town have risen by 22% since 2015, according to Rightmove.
Elsewhere, the analysis found that Gatley, which sits in the metropolitan borough of Stockport, secured top spot for those commuting into Manchester on a daily basis. With journey times of just 16 minutes into the city, annual house price growth of 8% and a strong rail performance rating, Gatley came just above Stalybridge and Ashton-under-Lyne in Tameside in the rankings.
In the South West, meanwhile, Avonmouth – a port and outer suburb of Bristol with a wealth of elegant Edwardian homes – was just ahead of Newport in Wales and Keynsham in Somerset as the best commuter hotspot for those working in Bristol’s city centre.
Its high ranking was helped by a very low annual season ticket of £360, journey times of 31 minutes and free parking at the station. Newport, ranked in second position, performed well as a result of its affordability (average property prices stand at just under £181,000) and journey times of only 21 minutes.
Jackson-Stops’ research also looked at the top commuter hotspots surrounding Birmingham, with Bromsgrove in Worcestershire and Tamworth in Staffordshire securing joint first position.
Bromsgrove, a town 13 miles south-west of Birmingham city centre famous for its cloth-making heritage, ranked highly thanks to its short 26 minute journey times, strong annual property price growth and £360 station parking cost.
Although annual season ticket and parking costs are both higher in Tamworth than they are in Bromsgrove, its average property price is nearly £55,000 cheaper and it also benefits from journey times of just 16 minutes into the heart of Birmingham.
Rugby in Warwickshire ranked in second place, while Redditch and Worcester in Worcestershire finished in joint third position.
“Although rail fares have not increased as much as they did at the start of 2018, commuters across the country are still unlikely to be impressed with the 3.1% price hike,” Nick Leeming, chairman at Jackson-Stops, said.
“Those looking to move this year will be carefully considering a raft of factors, from the impact of Brexit to the average house price of area – but for those commuters amongst us the time, cost and reliability associated with travelling into London by train will be key concern.”
He added: “One area which continues to outperform other surrounding London commuter locations is Luton, which benefits from as little as a 27 minute journey time to the city, comparatively low property prices and consistent house price growth. With the Bedfordshire town benefitting from significant inward investment over the next 20 years, we can only expect Luton to continue being a key spot for commuters, and investors alike.”