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What Does Crossrail Opening Mean for the South East?

Alongside the likes of HS2, the Crossrail project is one of the biggest transport schemes within the UK. While construction for this new railway began in 2012, the scope of the project, combined with numerous delays from the pandemic, pushed the estimated completion date to 2022. 

As COVID measures have now subsided and construction has resumed, the question on everyone’s minds remains: what does Crossrail mean for the South East?

Crossrail Update: When Will Crossrail Open? 

Running from Reading to London Paddington, the Elizabeth Line will include many stations across the South East and central London. For towns such as Slough, the Crossrail project will play an integral part in transforming their connectivity. Using Slough as an example, a larger, more direct train will cut the commute to the capital to just 18 minutes. 

With less than a year until the forecasted completion date of Q2 2022, the Elizabeth Line is now in its ‘complex final stages’. The Trial Running phase is an important milestone, and has seen train movements commence in the central operating system. 

More specifically, this step involves extensive tests to ensure the safety and reliability of the line. As the number of trains included in the Trial Running phase gradually increases, the 42km of Crossrail tunnels will be thoroughly tested. 

The initial stages of Trial Running include testing four trains per hour along the central operating section, which will significantly increase with each successful trial run. This step is crucial for the Crossrail project, as it will determine whether subsequent integration testing, timetable operation and demonstrations can be undertaken. 

Trial Operations is the final phase of testing, and will see members of the public try out real-time service scenarios to determine the success of the railway. Upon completion of this stage, the Elizabeth Line will be handed over to Transport for London.

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What Does Crossrail Mean for Commuter Towns Outside of the Line?

One of the benefits of a major infrastructure project such as this is the impact it can have on nearby towns. 

While the Elizabeth Line doesn’t run through Bracknell, for example, the benefits of Crossrail will likely apply to the town alongside the wider South East. 

Bracknell is already a popular destination amongst transient tenants, but the completion of the Elizabeth Line will reduce the commute to central London to just 56 minutes and could further push this demand for rental property. 

With an estimated 200 million annual passengers on Crossrail, the accessibility of the Elizabeth Line is expected to entice a broader demographic of tenants to the South-East, pushing Bracknell’s population to new heights.

Having this standard of transport links means investments in towns such as Bracknell will be much more desirable for changing tenant needs. 

In driving more tenants to the thriving town, companies will be more inclined to consider Bracknell for regional office spaces. While the town is already home to over 5,400 businesses, its position as the largest tech hub outside of London is set to continue growing. 

Forecasts are expecting the Crossrail project to contribute around £42 billion to the economy, much of that stimulated by the opportunities that will materialise across the South East. Acting as a catalyst for the majority of regeneration schemes across the region, over 10,000 jobs are expected to emerge from a combination of these efforts. 

Since construction for this new railway began in 2009, the ‘Crossrail Effect’ has been impacting the local market. With expectations of significant property price growth and influxes in rents, this effect has already been evident to some extent. 

Average rents across the South East have seen year-on-year growth of over 10%, with a 5.5% increase in March 2021 alone. As flexible working continues to grow in popularity, Crossrail will continue making destinations along the commuter belt more appealing, stimulating up to 19% growth in prices between 2022 and 2025.

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What Does this Mean for Investors?

The global pandemic has been at the root of many changes throughout society, the most notable being the changes in tenant and buyer demand throughout the property market. 

As the London exodus became clear, so did a rise in the outer commuter belt. While London leavers once capped their property search at 28 miles outside of the capital, the average distance for those purchasing a property has now hit 40 miles.

The progression in transport links has undoubtedly been a contributing factor to this, with Crossrail making destinations along the outer commuter belt, such as Bracknell, more accessible.

For investors looking for a potentially lucrative asset, this shift highlights the opportunities that come with Buy-to-Let property. While the South East has undergone significant growth, property remains relatively accessible when compared to other markets. However, with more growth on the horizon, the potential for capital appreciation is endless.

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