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The most expensive commuter town to get to London from by train at £77.90 return

MyLondon logo MyLondon 23/06/2022 Callum Marius

Rail strikes combined with the cost of living crisis have put value for money when commuting back in the spotlight. With Tube passenger numbers at just four per cent of pre-pandemic levels on Tuesday's strike day (June 21), when only one in five National Rail services ran across the country, it appears many Home Counties commuters simply stayed at home. It's worrying news for London's businesses and public transport companies, who are likely to take a financial hit in a time when inflation is soaring.

With fewer people commuting five days per week since the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the price of a peak (also called 'anytime') return becomes ever more important as people make ad-hoc trips to Zone 1 depending on the needs of their businesses. MyLondon examined National Rail, Elizabeth line, London Overground and London Underground services to identify which commuter towns offered the most expensive and cheapest commutes by train on the basis of a peak day return, or equivalent.

At £1.39 per return mile and £2.29 per return minute, the standout most expensive commuter town to London was the Kent town of Ashford. The commute from St Pancras International takes just 34-37 minutes, but costs £77.90 return. At £8,076, an annual season ticket is also on the pricey side. There is one caveat to this premium price though - the premium service. Southeastern High Speed trains for which these tickets are valid on use the High Speed 1 line, which is also used by Eurostar trains, allowing speeds of up to 140mph. As it is more expensive to run trains on this line, the cost is passed onto the commuters.

READ MORE: 'I was the last ever passenger on the London Green Line commuter coach and it was the most heartbreaking journey I've ever made'

Southeastern High Speed © Callum Marius Southeastern High Speed

As MyLondon previously reported, that doesn't make the Ashford-London commute the fastest in the Home Counties though, that award goes to Milton Keynes, where although trains have a slower maximum speed, they run non-stop. There is one way to cheapen the commute though, by slowing it down. From Ashford to London, the £77.90 peak day return drops to £65.10 if you opt to take a slower train which does not use the High Speed 1 line (the next fastest, via Tonbridge, takes more than double the time at 80 minutes).

On the other hand the cheapest commute from the Home Counties is from Chigwell, Essex at just £8.60 return. That equates to 71p per return mile (almost half that of Ashford) and 26p per return minute based on a 32 minute Tube ride to/from Liverpool Street including a change at Woodford. The reason for this is that despite Chigwell being in Essex, it is included in TfL's London fare Zone 4, the same as parts of London such as Wembley and Barking. TfL also prices Tube fares below rail fares which help push the price down for commuters even though the difference in journey time between a London-Chigwell and a London-Ashford commute is as little as two minutes.

Chigwell isn't as much as a winner as you might think though. According to property service giant Rightmove, the average house price there is a substantial £595,159, up seven per cent on the previous year, compared with Ashford's more affordable £311,790, up a smaller five per cent over the same period. Although these are just two extreme examples among the hundreds of commuter towns which surround the capital, it does highlight the disparity in value for money in the Home Counties.

You can read all of MyLondon's property stories here and our transport ones here.

If you have a transport-related story you think MyLondon should be covering, email callum.marius@reachplc.com.

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