By William Mata
The rising cost of rail season tickets from West Kent to London ‘could lead more people to work from home’.
Simon Spare, Director of Tunbridge Wells-based Thompson Spare estate agents, said Southeastern’s fares might turn professionals away from making a commute.
In January the rail franchise holder raised peak season ticket prices for commuters to the capital by 3.6 per cent – meaning it now costs £4,644 a year from Tunbridge Wells station to make the journey and £4,232 from Tonbridge.
Mr Spare, whose office is in High Street, said: “I think it unlikely that commuters will suddenly want to find work in Tunbridge Wells just because of increasing train fares.
“It might be conceivable, however, that people will be encouraged to open more time working from home. In some industries this is clearly impractical but in others it could be a good solution.
“With more time spent in the town, there might be more money spent in the town as well, which might please local traders.”
Southeastern was criticised for the price hike, which was above the national average of 3.4 per cent and came in alongside increased station car park charges. This has left drivers to Tonbridge railway station paying nearly £1,300 a year just to park.
Former commuter Lucy Hodgson told the Times that rail fares and travel stress led her to set up The Great Recruitment Company from her Frittenden home in 2016.
The 41-year-old said: “For seven years I spent three to four hours per day commuting from Paddock Wood then Staplehurst to Holborn.
“By the time I had paid for petrol, car parking, season ticket for the train and possibly for the bus or tube, I calculated that I had to earn an additional £11,000 before tax.”
Recent research by Zoopla found the asking price for homes has risen to more than half a million in Tunbridge Wells and £482,000 in Tonbridge.
Ms Hodgson said extremes in price are having a knock-on effect locally.
She continued: “As a recruiter, and subsequently head-hunter, I have witnessed numerous large companies leaving Kent which are not being replaced.
“There are a comparatively low number of employment opportunities in Kent that pay more than £40,000 outside of the traditional professions.
“This means those who are particularly focussed on promotions at work or want to buy a house are likely to have to consider commuting to London.
“As house prices are still increasing rapidly there is often a need for at least one member of a household to commute to London in order to afford a mortgage.
“The resulting impact on communities, and on house prices, is certainly detrimental in my view.”