Is your commute a pleasure?

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    Belinda Aspinall

    I thought some people might appreciate reading about real life stories, from real life people who commute. Whilst not wanting to influence decisions it can be helpful to know what it is really like to do the commute into London.

    I recently read this article written by Emily Sargent on the commute from Brighton to London – it made me laugh out loud picturing everyone so very organised….I’d be like her getting it all wrong!

    If you’ve got any stories to share, be they funny or useful we’d love to read about them.



    Hi Bee. I’ve only just seen this post – post half-term catch up! but it’s an important consideration so I’m happy to add my bit… For most of our early married life, my husband didn’t go anywhere near a train from work as we lived out of London and he was based in other UK towns and cities. However, all that changed when he was offered a job as a surveyor for a big London firm. At the time, we lived in Milton Keynes so the train service into London was good and therefore after some discussion, we decided he should take the job and begin life as a commuter. It was all pretty easy as we lived within a 10 minute cycle ride (costs nothing to park a bike) of the train station and services were regular and generally reliable so it didn’t really change our life that much. However, he really didn’t like living in Milton Keynes (it’s a marmite kind of place) and we decided to move back down to my patch of the woods. Although we loved the villages around Hungerford and Marlborough, the train commute wasn’t great so we decided we’d have to be close to Newbury station as that had the best and quickest service into the West End. We were lucky to find a house we liked 10 minutes’ drive away from the centre of Newbury but still in lovely countryside. Not wanting to pay the extra price of parking, my husband bought a motorbike – this did save on parking but we hadn’t factored in icy winter mornings and dark rainy evenings when the car is a far more appealling option. Also, although there are plenty of early morning trains from Newbury, my husband quickly found that many were full to bursting by the time they reached Newbury and so he tended to get an earlier train to avoid the main rush, meaning he was up and out by 6.30 (ouch). The service in the evenings varied and although he was usually home by 7.45, delays were reasonably common (although in fairness, the service did improve over the two years he did the journey).

    I appreciate I’ve given a lot of background there but I do think it’s really important to work out all the finer details before making the decision on where to live and where to commute from, if you can. For example, the cost of season tickets does vary quite a bit and parking at some stations is a not insignificant extra cost. Also, you need to find out how busy the trains are – not getting a seat day after day can be tedious. For those who don’t need to commute every day, these issues are less important, but still good to check the time of the last time home etc if you have an evening meeting in London as this can be restrictive. You might also need to think creatively too – for example, we are 10 minutes from Newbury but it’s only 15 minutes to Whitchurch, which has services into Waterloo so more convenient for city commuters. Some of the smaller stations also offer free parking.

    It’s defiinitely worth doing plenty of investigating at the outset – as it turned out, my husband found the commute really hard work and ended up getting a job within driving distance instead. We still love our life in the country but in hindsight, we didn’t need to be nearly as station-driven as we thought, which might have widened our search area.

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