Slow recovery for house prices along Southern Rail route

Warren Lewis
19th December 2017

A year on from the Christmas from hell for Southern Rail users, when the train drivers’ union ASLEF followed the RMT, and announced a series of strikes, local property prices along the main Southern Rail routes still haven’t recovered.

According to house price analysis by online estate agents, average prices in towns on the routes have risen just 2.17% over the past 12 months compared to UK-wide growth of 3.9%.

UK house prices increased by 2.4% over the past three months according to the Halifax House Price Index, while average price growth was just 0.75% along the three main Southern Rail routes – Brighton Mainline, Mainline West and Mainline East – used by hundreds of thousands of commuters every week.

Although strike action by the train drivers’ union ASLEF was officially called off on 8th November 2017, by then the longest-running industrial dispute in the history of Britain’s railways had rumbled on for 18 months, and the knock-on effect has taken its toll on local property prices.

There wasn’t a single location on the Mainline East route and only one – Hassocks – on the Brighton Mainline route that saw house price growth over the past 12 months above the UK average. Hove (8.18%), on the Mainline West route, was the standout performer with house price growth more than twice the UK average over the past year despite the ongoing dispute disrupting commuters travelling into London.  

However, when you look at house price growth over the past three months, which is at the end of a tiring 18 months of industrial action, the fallout from ongoing strike action is much more apparent on house prices, with not a single location on any of the routes showing price growth above the UK average of 2.4%.

Property sales

The number of properties sold over the past 12 months along the three main Southern Rail routes was down 21.2% on the average annual sales over the past five years. Every location along the Brighton Mainline, Mainline East and Mainline West routes saw a fall in sales over the past 12 months compared to the five-year annual average. Sales were down 24% in Brighton, 25% in Lewes and 22% in Horsham.

Alex Gosling, CEO of online estate agents comments: “For the past 12 months, homeowners have seen the value of their homes stagnate as walkout after walkout by RMT and ASLEF members had a devastating impact on the Southern Rail network. It was bad enough that the strikes caused misery for millions of hardworking people, but for those homeowners trying to move, very fewer buyers were willing to commit to a purchase along the Southern Rail routes while the strikes rumbled on.

While house price growth on Brexit and the aftermath of the General Election, but the ongoing industrial action clearly had a negative impact on local property prices. Prospective buyers will have had concerns over the reliability of the train service while the strikes rumbled on. And until the dispute was resolved, there would have been plenty of buyers who would not have wanted to commit to such a large purchase.

However, now ASLEF has called off all future strikes, we should start to see more buyers committing to a purchase. And even though the RMT hasn’t followed ASLEF in halting its industrial dispute, local property markets can return to some semblance of normality.”

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