The right track? Only time will tell
THE introduction of high-speed trains between Ashford and London has long been a “selling point” to promote the town. Ashford borough council, Ashford’s Future and estate agents have for some time been boasting about the benefits of how getting such trains on the track later this year. The sceptical have been a little less enthusiastic, especially when it emerged that commuters would have to pay ‘top-up’ fares, maybe as much as 30 per cent extra, for the privilege of faster trips to or from London. There was the inevitable debate over whether people would want to move to Ashford from London to take advantage of cheaper house prices when any savings would be swallowed up by the addition to their rail season ticket. Well, a report this week suggests that hundreds of extra travellers/commuters are expected to use the new high-speed trains when they start running in December and that one of the consequences is expected to be a fairly hefty hike – up to 7.5 per cent – in Ashford’s property prices. That’s good news for homeowners and the town’s beleaguered estate agents. Yet we remain unconvinced that the highspeed trains, welcome as they are, will have such an impact. You would need to be a high earner to willingly pay an extra 30 per cent for your season ticket and the high-speed destination – St Pancras – isn’t exactly slap bang in the middle of London. Time will tell, which is somewhat ironic as time, and cost, will be the two guiding principles on which commuters will select which kind of train they use.