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Are commuter towns still popular in 2023?

Posted on May 14, 2023 by W.H. Cox
Are commuter towns still popular in 2023?

With the change in working patterns ushered in by 2020’s world halting pandemic, the question of commuting to work has been going through an overhaul.  This process is ongoing as business models are adapting and changing, and employees’ preferences also transition.  Many people have adapted to a hybrid work-at-home and in-the-office model, some are increasing their working-from-home profile. In the cost-of-living crisis, paying for transport to and from work are an investment and a time deficit many young people are interested in avoiding. Without a doubt, there is a lot of change taking place which is affecting the former model of the commuter town, but there is evidence to suggest that commuter towns will retain their value, plus new commuter hotspots are emerging.  At WH Cox, Surrey’s leading removals and storage company we have been helping people move to Surrey for decades. A county with many commuter towns, Surrey also has great open countryside and elegant surroundings to explore.  

Changes in the commuter town model 

The desire to live outside the city centre has created urban sprawl and surburban rings of growth around commercial centres. There were one million commuters in London in 2017, some traveling from as far as Bath and Peterborough. It is simply the process of development that people move further out from the city centre to places which are more conducive to family life or provide a different atmosphere or respite.  As property in the centre tends to increase in value, often this move is driven by economic factors.  Surrey has long been a popular location for commuters into London.  For our top five commuter towns in Surrey, read our related article. Sparked by the pandemic, a desire for access to nature, plus the Stamp Duty holiday saw many Londoners relocating to more rural areas with more countryside access. Many moved to Surrey, sealing deals on aspirational properties. For those that were looking for less of a substantial investment, Sussex has also been a popular place for people from London to move to.  One example of this is in Hastings where many Londoners who can work remotely have bought properties where they are more affordable. 

Co-working spaces in commuter towns 

 With the more nomadic work patterns of the city citizens migrating south, demand for a “third space” has emerged, that of a co-working space, something between home and office.  As the popularity of co-working spaces grows in the capital, there is no reason why they also would not thrive in a smaller town, as demonstrated by Freedom Works in Hastings.  The phoenix rising from the ashes of the old Debenhams Store, Freedom Works has community as part of its ethos.  The Financial Times observed in a feature on commuter towns how hybrid working and recouped travel time allowed residents of commuter towns to reinvest their energy in community projects and volunteering. In fact, while it may seem less commuters may devalue the commuter town, there was more development in the infrastructure and the economy of the commuter towns as the inhabitants were literally, there more often.

Commuter towns on the Elizabeth line

The map of commuter towns changes with transport access. New places are emerging along the Elizabeth Line in London and its suburbs which become popular due to fast access to London. Burnham, found in Buckinghamshire near Slough is experiencing a sudden increase in house sales as the average time it takes to sell a house there has decreased by more than a fortnight. With a £22,000 increase on the sale price since 2022, house prices are increasing in this village north of the Thames.  The proximity to Burnham Beeches, an area of conservation and natural beauty and Burnham Park ticks many boxes for people who want access to nature and quick commute times into the centre of London.  Another place on the map due to this new line is Maidenhead. The Elizabeth Line can get you from Maidenhead to Paddington in 35 minutes, Canary Wharf in 54 minutes and Liverpool Street in 45 minutes.  With its own signature market town feel, it is quintessentially English in the borough of Windsor.  So, while some commuter towns may see fewer commuters frequenting their stations, other areas will be experiencing a greater uptake of commuters, as transport lines change habits and trends. 

Popular commuter towns for young people

Data demonstrates that Luton is a popular option for younger people who can benefit from a short journey time into the city (26 minutes) and cheaper rental costs than London.  The average rent in Luton is £1,142 a month. Reading comes in as another popular option with rents of £1,500 a month and a journey time of 23 minutes. The Elizabeth Line from Reading to Abbey Wood passes through Canary Wharf, Farringdon, Liverpool St, Bond St, and Paddington.  With co-working spaces in both these places, they offer young people options where they can live and work with access to the city as required.  As millennials and Generation Z move into these areas they will influence these areas, but the age of the former commuter town has come and gone.  Benefits of the time gained from commuting can be seen to be beneficial for community activities and volunteering.  In this case, the town gains dimension and community, rather than being defined by its proximity to a train station. 

Commuter towns in Surrey 

Woking in Surrey was named the top commuter hot spot in 2023 by Yopa.  Low crime rates, excellent schools, and a 26-minute commute into London are factors that led to Woking taking the lead above Luton and Reading, and Slough. Despite a recent 5.9% hike in rail fares, the commuter model is still popular, particularly with the new hybrid work from home approach.  Buyers in Surrey tended to sell smaller city flats in London to buy more spacious homes with gardens further out into the county. Despite the long commute, the hybrid work model makes it more manageable per week, and the improvement in quality of life is appreciated.  Woking is close to RHS Wisley and the Basingstoke Canal. With excellent shopping and dining, plus galleries and a theatre, Woking has its own centre, with London within easy reach. 

WHCOX – Surrey’s leading removals and storage firm

If you are moving to Surrey, look no further than WH Cox.  We have a fleet of removals vehicles of all sizes and a range of storage options to facilitate your move. We have helped many people move to Surrey over the years and continue to see more people attracted to this beautiful county. Whatever your requirements, downsizing or upsizing, storing or emptying, we will happily assist you. Read our most recent reviews to see how we perform when it comes to the big day. We specialize in office moves in Surrey and Middlesex, and if you are moving abroad, our international team can assist you. Get in touch with the team today for a free quote, or give us a call to talk through your moving situation. We will ensure that your next move is a positive one, with a stress-free transition.